Paintings by Sun Ying: The Unbearable Sweetness of Being

Painting by Sun Ying (detail)
Painting (detail view) by Sun Ying (孙莹); Art Central 2016 (Line Gallery)

Sun Ying is a young artist from Qinhuangdao in Hebei Province, China. Her paintings tend to feature animals (quite often a rabbit) and (as is the case with the two paintings featured here) a girl—the same girl. Each painting is meant to tell its own story—a part of the girl’s life distilled into a single moment and frozen in time—but taken together, the paintings form a larger narrative. Sun Ying states:

The story of the girl is ongoing, she tells her own story in her own world, all the happiness and the growing pain remain in the painting passing through the time tunnel.

Painter Sun Ying’s Exhibition Opens in Beijing
Painting by Sun Ying
Painting by Sun Ying; Art Central 2016 (Line Gallery)

In this portrait, the girl stands in front of rose bush, her hair dusted with a sprinkling of freshly fallen snow.

A Interpretation of the Painting

While writing this post, I started wondering about winter and roses. Exactly how hardy are these plants? The trick to protecting rose bushes in cold climates is to encourage the plants to follow their natural habit of hardening off (a process in which their cell walls thicken) and then going dormant before winter ( One danger is that rose bushes may react to unseasonable fluctuations in temperature by breaking this natural pattern of growth and dormancy. If a rose bush starts growing too soon because of a warm spell, it can be severely damaged or killed when the cold weather returns.

Has the rose bush in the painting blossomed too soon and or has it forgotten to go dormant? In either case, it is a vulnerable, doomed beauty caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Of course, maybe I am being too pragmatic and pessimistic (as is my nature). I asked another person how she viewed the winter blossom and she suggested that it represented hope.

In another picture, we only see the girl’s torso, her right arm and a single rose (perhaps the same one as in the first painting) in her hand.

Painting by Sun Ying
Painting by Sun Ying; Art Central 2016 (Gallery: Line Gallery)

Go Further

This section includes links to online photo galleries, discussion questions and an art challenge.

Artist Website

You can visit SunYing’s page at the Line Gallery website for more information about her work:


Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Three Questions

  1. What do you think the rose in the painting represents?
  2. What do you think the snow in the painting represents? Of course, it could just represent “now it’s winter”. but could it also have other meanings?
  3. If you were to paint a male/or female representing yourself at this point in time, what would he/she be doing?

Art Challenge

Imagine a person, someone completely original and fictional. Think of a point in their ongoing story. Draw, sketch, paint or sculpt a figure that represents that person at that point in their ongoing story.

~ text and photos by longzijun


Return to Artjouer’s Gallery of Artists

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