Suyao Tian lives in the Twin Cities and is an artist, designer, owner of Viewpoint Gallery, and adjunct faculty at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She began her studies in Music Education at Qinghai Normal University and Xiamen University in China. Following graduation, she began teaching Music Education as Assistant Professor at Guangdong Tianhe Technical Normal College in Guangzhou, China.
She later came to the US in 2011 where she began her studies in art and design. She started with her BA in Fine Art at the University of Central Arkansas. Afterward, she completed her MFA in Design and Branding Identity from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2017. From her MFA studies, she developed and established her company Modern Cover™ where she designs and sells playful outerwear which has been sold across the US.
Her paintings have been featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions, along with curating multiple group shows cross country. Her works have caught the eye of national and international companies, with her designs applied and sold across a range of product types, like Room & Board, BOND Dubai, Merlette NYC, and more.
In 2022 she opened Viewpoint gallery with her husband, to celebrate art and artists, generate new ideas for the community, and to provide opportunities for greater engagement of people within the community.
While curating, painting, running the gallery and Modern Cover™, and raising her son, she continues to be a strong and active member across organizations within the art and creative communities of the Twin Cities. She currently serves on the Executive Board of Art Buddies and the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA), and is passionately engaged with multiple galleries and organizations across state.
I am Suyao Tian, an artist and designer who lives and works in the Twin Cities. I have a BFA degree in both fine art and music education, and in 2017 I graduated with honors from Minneapolis College of Art and Design with an MFA focused on design. I am the owner and founder of Viewpoint Gallery and also a painter.
For me, painting is a language through which I connect to the world. I was born during the one-child-only generation of China in the 80s. Growing up, I hadn’t any siblings, I couldn’t have pets, and making friends was limited by rules, which inhibited my communication and confidence. As a child my companions were all kinds of small bugs. I caught them, put them in jars, spoke to them, and played with them. They were the only listeners in my childhood. As an adult, I still often talk to these creatures, but instead of putting them in the jar, I put them into my artistic creations. They have become a symbol and language of my own.
My primary medium is watercolor, but I also use different pen and ink marks to define the details of each painting, giving layers and depth of the painting. In this way, the mark making creates both a micro and macro world.
My creative process is to extract the fragments of memory and separate, reorganize, and integrate them. This process is my communication with them, and a process of self-release and expression. These peculiar images often appear in my memory, through dreams and subconscious imaginings, so I use abstraction to catch a moment, feeling, and unclear form when it appears in my mind.
In a way, my mind is like another plane of existence. My paintings represent the places I have been and the things I have seen in the world of my imagination. Time and space are completely different in my mind from that of the real world. I use my painting to understand the relationship between humanity, nature, and the universe. I continue to explore the internal questions of who we are and where we are going.
In this fast-paced society, we have very little time and attention to our internal self. But human consciousness is tangible and sacred. It is a secret space where no one else can be unless you let them in. That is why many of us are afraid to look inside, because we’re afraid to be alone with our thoughts. I think of my work as a "prompt"—the abstract shapes, biomorphic figures, and unknown elements pull a viewer into a whimsical imagined world, inviting everyone to explore and have a conversation with themselves to find who they are; like a mirror, where what you see reflects something of yourself.
My work creates a peaceful and safe space that hopefully invites all the viewers mind to wander and explore, but is not overtly symbolic object to suggest the direction. Instead, I use abstract shapes, biomorphic, figure-like, and unknown elements to prompt curiosity. There’s no right or wrong, there’s no direction, just wandering to inspire people to explore and find themselves again and again. I sometimes hear people say they found peace from my works, that they find encouragement and healing. I believe inspiring people to find themselves is the most important function of my work and its place within society. This introspection is critical to society because no one is capable of a full peace and love for others without first understanding themselves, and it is my hope that my works provide such a peace to all who see it.