Jun Cen, An inspirational work
Jun came to the United States to pursue a Masters in Illustration in 2011. Now based in New York, he specializes in editorial illustration.
I can recall how I met Jun. If I’m not mistaken, we simply shook hands as if we already knew each other. At least for me, he felt familiar because I knew his work.
We catch up occasionally, mostly when I visit New York with my wife. I have no doubt in my mind is he a good person, always ready to help, but in reality, I know very little about him. He is a quiet person, which in my view is a shame because I’m sure he has many interesting things to say. Fortunately, those things that remain unspoken are expressed in his illustrations.
Jun Cen was born in Guangzhou, a city located in the southern region of the People’s Republic of China. It is the third biggest city in China. Today, he is based in New York where he mostly does editorial illustration, though his work can also be found in advertising campaigns, festival posters, animations, and more.
As far as he can recall, Jun Cen has always been drawing. He thanks his parents (and we are thankful too) for allowing him to do it. Unlike many families in China, they encouraged him to continue developing his hobby. Today, after many years of work and study, this hobby matured into a career to the delight of readers across the world. His work is featured in important publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of New York. To me, the city is like a big store where you can buy things from every corner of the world. I am not interested in buying, so it doesn’t impress me. The most attractive part about going to New York was the knowledge that I was about to leave. Half of the New York experience is spent underneath the city itself, in the Subway. Despite its charm, it is still a dirty and suffocating place.
Of course, everything depends on how you look at it. The same subway I described as dirty and suffocating is a source of inspiration for Jun Cen. There are few places in the world where it is possible to witness such cultural variety. The whole world seems to be traveling through the train cars. New York has space for everybody, no matter where they come from. This is a quality I greatly admire.
Describing the city might help one understand Jun Cen’s way of working. As he mentioned, his ideas rarely come to him in the studio. Rather, they are discovered while he is walking through the city looking for them. There is no doubt New York is a space that shelters millions of ideas. With so many things to see, the visual interpretations and combinations are infinite.
Interpretation is an important word in describing Jun Cen’s work. As he says, every time he approaches a commission, he attempts to make it personally relevant and extract something from himself. I believe this is where the magic of his work comes from; the observer feels it is personal too. His illustrations stop time. For an instant, his work takes me to an intimate and personal place that I don’t want to share with anybody. This is where the success of an artist is found.
when the work uses a personal story to transcend boundaries, creating a narrative that the observer identifies with. They embrace the image as a manifestation of their personal experience, just like writing, music, and other forms of artistic expression touches the deepest wells of emotion.
I believe that Jun Cen’s work possesses a balance that is almost perfect. The colors, composition, and concepts combine in equal proportions that posit a sublime and fragile answer. His methods are unique and clever, never forced yet understood by many.
My assertions about Jun Cen’s work are not mere exaggeration. He sports a long list of awards and recognitions from the most prestigious illustration contests, organizations, and institutions that reinforces my opinion of his work. This is a career one should follow closely. He is a person you will learn a lot from.
I am confident his path will be full of success. He is an artist who discovered his career at an early age. His current work and accomplishments are just the tip of the iceberg. I cherish all the times we shared with him and his girlfriend and am happy to document the lessons he has given me through this interview.
Food: Dim Sum
Movie: Antichrist | Lars Von Trier
Books: Yukio Mishima books.