This week’s Spotlight Creator is Xuni Gong, who goes by Shirley as her Anglo name. Xuni and I corresponded over email for this interview about her influences — which range from photorealistic paintings of waterfalls to ancient Asian mythology to Cthulhu — and how she balances her freelance illustration work with the deeply personal, philosophical work that makes her a standout on MakersPlace. 

MP: Can you introduce yourself and give our readers a sense of your artwork and career?

SG: I am Shirley Gong, a freelance illustrator based in Chongqing, China. I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Oil Painting from Sichuan Fine Art Institution, China. Also, I hold a Master’s Degree in Illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design, USA. Following my graduation from SCAD, I started freelancing in Chongqing, China. Except for doing commercial works, I still keep exploring personal works because of my fine art background.

“Tibet” by Shirley Xuni Gong 

MP: Your work feels quite ancient and mythological — do you have any major sources of inspiration that you regularly turn to, or are these scenes and creatures wholly from your own imagination? Pieces that come to mind include your pieces, “The Daily Life of Weird Hunters.”

SG: Traditional Chinese mythology has influenced me a lot since I was in undergraduate study. So in every period of my study and work, I have creations on these kinds of topics, although they are slightly different, such as Chinese mythology, Japanese Yokai stories, and the Cthulhu system.

MP: Which of your pieces do you feel the strongest emotional connection to and why? Which piece feels the most personal?

SG: “Cosmic Dust Burns Barrenly” is a series that I feel most emotionally connected to right now. The title of this series already expresses some of my current concepts and ideas quite directly. I don’t think I’m an optimistic person, I could even say I’m a pessimistic and contradictory person. There is no right or wrong, I accept myself as such. I am insignificant relative to the universe, but I want to do what I think is Meaningful.

“Cosmic Dust Burns Barrenly” by Shirley Xuni Gong

MP: How did you get exposed to NFTs? What’s your experience been like in the CryptoArt world?

SG: The first time I knew about NFT was through an invitation from MakersPlace. The cryptoart world is a broader platform for me to display my works.

“The Silk Road” by Shirley Xuni Gong 

MP: Which artists have had the biggest impact on your work?

SG: Artists who have had a great influence on me come from the fields of traditional Chinese painting and Japanese ukiyo-e. Among contemporary artists, Hiroshi Senju’s waterfall series is my favorite.

Waterfall (Blue) by Hiroshi Senju

MP: Do you have any favorite crypto artists?

SG: Not yet. Because the definitions of both identities as crypto artists and traditional artists are the same for me.

MP: What are your other passions and hobbies besides art?

SG: Games and music.

“Tibet No.2” by Shirley Xuni Gong 

MP: How has your style evolved over the years?

As mentioned earlier, traditional Chinese painting and Ukiyo-e have been a great influence on my style. What they have in common is that they are flat and based on line shapes. So lines have always been a feature of my style that I wanted to keep. But at the same time, I feel that style is just a tool that changes according to the ideas I want to express.

“Dragon Heads-raising Day No.2” by Shirley Xuni Gong 

MP: What is coming in the near future for your art?

I think I’ll mainly continue to explore two topics. One is about dreams, the “Investigators’ Story” series. The inspiration for this series is all dreams. Although there are traces of rework on the original dream fragments, this series of  paintings will make me happy. Another is “Cosmic Dust Bums Barrenly.”

Continuing this “personal inner expression,” I think it will express more feminism in the future.

“No Longer Human” by Shirley Xuni Gong

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