Interviewing Sonya Fu: The Hong Kong Neo-Surrealist Breaks Bread with Some Surrealists — and Some Surreal Inspirations

Neo-Surrealist Sonya Fu

Here’s the scene: Manhattan. May 26. 8pm. A gleaming edition of Norman Bel Geddes’s “Motor Car No. 8” pulls to the curb in front of 66 East 66th Street. A pink-gloved albino in a chartreuse suit steps swiftly across the sidewalk and opens the rear door of the vehicle. Hong Kong Neo-Surrealist Sonya Fu is alone in the backseat. The man smiles, takes her hand, then whisks the celebrated artist from the machine, through a gilded lobby and on to a mirrored lift. There the man presses the button for floor 88.

Silence.

Fu tries not to look at herself ad infinitum, but it’s impossible. She’s everywhere. So too the albino, who’s right there with her, and equally incalculable. Fu is bursting with questions that she doesn’t ask, sensing it’d spoil some pending surprise. The albino breaks the silence.

“Good of you to not ask questions,” he says. “Saves me the trouble of denying you answers. I will tell you this exquisite suit was made for me by Sam’s Tailor.”

The albino laughs. Fu joins him. She had wondered about the suit. Now she wonders why he chose to divulge this fact alone.

The elevator door opens. There to greet Fu are AP Contemporary Director Andrey Pichugin and Art Miami Fairs Director Nick Korniloff. Pichugin speaks first.

“Congratulations, Sonya! You’ve sold every work we had showing at Art Miami New York!”

“Indeed, you have,” chimes in Korniloff. “And Andrey and I have made arrangements to feature you and your work at all of our Fairs from here on out. That means Art Southampton in July, Art Silicon Valley in October, and of course Art Miami itself in December.”

“To celebrate the occasion,” says Pichugin, “we’ve commandeered this penthouse, which is yours for as long as you stay in New York.”

“It’s a magic penthouse,” adds Korniloff. “So you’ll want to be careful how you use it. The gentleman who led you here will be on hand to help though. His name by the way is Friday.”

“Friday’s an expert guide,” says Pichugin, “as you’ll see from tonight’s dinner party. Friday’s also very accomplished at summoning spirits, and it was he who served as the conduit to the out-of-this-world.”

“It’s all very hush-hush, of course,” warns Korniloff. “So please be extremely discreet. This is not something the everyday world is ready for yet.”

“Or the every night,” says Pichugin, with a small, sly laugh. “Because it’s not every night that turns out to be the night of your life! I’m afraid Nick and I are not allowed join you though. The guests only agreed to attend if we assured them that the dinner was to be held for you and you alone.”

“Friday, would you please bring Ms. Fu into the dining room and introduce her to the distinguished guests?”

“Gladly, sir.”

Friday steps up and holds out his arm for Fu to grab.

“Shall we, Ms. Fu?”

tender_stillness_by_sonya_fu

Fu grabs hold and Friday leads her to a set of immense doors which automatically open upon approach. Across the threshold she finds a purple-draped room dominated by a long dinner table covered in embroidered lace and set with silver, crystal and fine china. Each piece of tableware is clearly aged. Atop the table is a luminous rectangular centerpiece branched with Hong Kong orchids.

Before Fu can begin to make sense of this extraordinary tableau, Friday speaks:

“Ms Fu, it is my distinct honor and privilege to present to you Andre Breton, Meret Oppenheim and Yves Tanguy.”

Making sense now becomes completely doubting the senses. Fu cannot believe that she was really just introduced to three of history’s most fabled Surrealists. And she says so too.

“Surely you jest, Mr. Friday.”

“No, Ms. Fu. I chide you not. Seated before you is indeed Madame Oppenheim, along with Monsieurs Breton and Tanguy. Their presence is a gift from your Misters Pichugin and Korniloff.”

“But how is this possible?” Fu asks.

“As Mr. Korniloff said, this is a magic penthouse. And…”

“Enough!” Breton interrupts, rising from the table. “Experience not explanation is what’s called for here. So please stop your chatter and see to our dinner. I am positively famished!”

“Yes, sir.”

As quickly as Friday disappears Breton is standing before Fu, extending his hand.

“So very nice to meet you, Sonya. May I call you Sonya?”

“Uh, of course, Monsieur Breton.”

“Just Breton, Sonya. Just Breton. Meret over here prefers Meret. And Yves likes Yves. But me? I’m just Breton.”

“It’s, er, a pleasure to meet all of you.”

“We know that, my dear. From here on out we shall not trifle with things we already know, okay? Let’s instead devour all of the things we don’t yet know. Or at least, which you don’t. For instance, did you know that all of us are fans of your work?”

“No, sir, I did not.”

“Well, now you know. And now we can proceed apace… Sit, sit.”

Breton pulls out the chair at the head of the table. As he does so both Oppenheim and Tanguy rise.

“Stay standing everyone, and grab your champagne,” says Breton. “I’d like to propose a toast… To Sonya Fu, now and forever a true Surrealist.”

“Salut!”

Fu sits. Still a little woozy from the shock of being seated in such distinguished and other-worldly company. But she’s willing to enjoy the ride, wherever it may go.

Tanguy speaks:

“You know, Sonya. Breton teases me; says you’ve not only taken my palette, but that you’ve taken it to new heights! Not in subject, mind you. But my primary colors. He’s not the only apparition of my realm saying such things either. Has my palette influenced you in any way whatsoever? Be truthful, please.”

“As you might know, Monsieur Tanguy, like you I am heavily inspired by my dreams; where I am greeted with dreamy creatures. They radiate with a beautiful aura of different combinations of colors. Of course, they don’t always look this pleasant and welcoming, but I try to capture all aspects of them.”

“Ha!” says Breton. “What do you think of that?”

“What about me and my work?” asks Oppenheim. “Forget the fur-covered tea cups and squirrel-tailed beer mugs that everyone talks about. I did so much more. Has any of it in any way inspired you?”

Artist Sonya Fu
Artist Sonya Fu

“Aside from my dreams, Madame Oppenheim, I’m also inspired by a lot of artistic creations in the world, not limited to only the breathtaking masterpieces from artists, beautiful music, something abstract like the feeling or the atmosphere that I experience at times or visions that spark in my head at random times. Oh and the things nature does when it gets drunk!”

“Wow!,” says Breton. “I suppose it’s my turn to sacrifice. Did anything that I did way back when make any kind of mark on you?”

“Perhaps, subconsciously, Monsieur Breton. It’s a privilege to adore works from the true masters!”

“Surely you read The Manifestoes, no?”

“No, I have never,” Fu replies, “but I feel like I should now!”

“I should say so,” scolds Breton.

“Well, that’s that for us.” he continues. “Now it’s time for someone else. Specifically, it’s time for you to fill the three empty chairs there with those who’ve been most inspirational in your life and to your work. They can be anyone, from any time, real or imagined. All we ask is that with each name you give us the reason, okay?

“You mean whoever I cite will then come join us?” asks Fu. “Here? Now?”

“That’s precisely what we mean, my dear. Now, for the first person:”

“I would like to meet H.R. Giger! I have been a fan of Alien since I was a child! I’ve always adored the boldness and edginess of Mr. Giger and the way he manifested his masterpieces. All his creatures, disturbingly beautiful, like they are alive and living in a different dimension, a forbidden realm that is dark, still and dangerous.”

“And the second?”

“Salvador Dali! I have heard of Monsieur Dali’s hallucinogenic indulgences and that some of his works were somehow influenced by this. He painted about the 4th dimension and I would like to hear more about his personal perception of the 4th dimension. I think I will have a never-ending conversation with him on that.”

“Now the third:”

“The giant serpent girl that I painted in one of my paintings Tender Stillness back in 2013. I have seen her in my dreams many times (she is one of those creatures I mentioned, who doesn’t welcome my presence in my dreams but I had to capture this obscure aura and aspect of her). She is always so intimidating and somewhat angry… she never spoke in my dreams, she just glared and raised tsunami… I would like to have a face to face conversation with her and find out what’s going on. I hope this room has good drainage and is big enough for her to manifest…”

“Voila!” says Breton. “As perfect a grouping of dinner guests as I’ve ever seen!” And with a nod to Friday, who in turn claps his hands, Giger, Dali and Fu’s Serpent Girl all appear.

“Now, please, can we eat?”

Interview by John Hood

Photography provided by the artist 

John Hood

John Hood

John Hood is a Miami-based wordslinger whose byline has appeared everywhere from NBC New York to The Glasgow Herald. A chronic interviewer, Hood’s gone face-to-face with everyone from Martin Amis and Afrojack to Dita Von Teese and Gore Vidal. While still delivering the occasional Our Man in Miami column for BlackBook and/or A Day in the Life entry for Paste, these days he most frequently bylines for Miami New Times, Culture Designers, Ocean Drive, Tropicult, ADANAI, Fordistas, WD Ventito and, now, Arte Fuse.

1 Comment
  1. I enjoyed reading your article. I love Sonya Fu’s art.
    Thank you for sharing your experience with interviewing her!!

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