In Conversation with Chun Yin Rainbow Chan

We chat to Sydney-based multidisciplinary artist Chun Yin Rainbow Chan while she installs her window for Lunar New Year 2022. Chun Yin Rainbow Chan is a vocalist, producer and multi-disciplinary artist who has built a reputation as one of the most innovative musicians in Australia. We asked Rainbow Chan to transform our Mud Australia stores into a visual and sensory experience to celebrate the year of the tiger.

I’m a musician, visual artist and educator living on Gadigal Land, Sydney. I was born in Hong Kong and moved here when I was six years old. I feel most at home when I’m cooking a big meal for family and friends.

Chun Yin Rainbow Chan

Talk us through your installation for Mud? What do each of the elements symbolise/mean to you?

Abounding conjures two important Chinese symbols—the colour red and the circle—which represent vitality, unity and harmony. I wanted to combine the old and the new by speaking to the elegant design of Mud products and reimagining Lunar New Year objects as a contemporary still life. Scattered amongst the installation are traditional sweets which make up the 攢盒 or “Tray of Togetherness”, a platter of snacks offered to visitors during Lunar New Year. The candied winter melon, lotus root, melon seeds and mandarins all have lucky sounding names, but I also adore their shapes and textures. Like wheels turning, the paper rosettes represent abundance and moving forward towards new beginnings. The vibrant flowers and green foliage in the centre of the installation symbolise life and growth through adversity, a sentiment I’m sure we share after such challenging times.

What does the Lunar New Year remind you of? Can you share with us your favourite personal or familial traditions?

Back in Hong Kong, Lunar New Year is a busy time because of the sheer size of my extended family. We eat, watch lion dancing and covertly set off fire crackers in our village. But in Sydney, it’s a little more subdued. It usually begins eating a home cooked feast that my mum has been preparing for days. Think watercress and red date soup, steamed whole fish, stir fried prawns and Chinese greens, tender chicken with minced ginger and garlic, home made New Year rice cake… my mouth is watering just thinking about it! We also exchange “Lai See” (the small red envelopes) as a symbol of well-wishing. After the meal, we often go to the Taoist temple and make our wishes for the new year.

What came first for you - music or art? Or, are these practices intrinsically intertwined?

I gravitated towards creative things from a young age. I was obsessed with drawing as a kid and joined all the school bands and choirs. Over time, I refined these skills and fell in love with writing and performing original music. To this day, these practices are tools for me to navigate the complexities of life. So, yes, they are very much intrinsically intertwined for me and often reflect the themes of love, longing and diasporic confusion.

Top 3 songs on your rotation right now?

I’m loving Nala Sinephro’s “Space 1”, Teresa Teng’s “我只在乎你 I only care about you” and Yaeji’s “What we drew”.

What's on the cards for 2022?

I’ve got quite a few live performances and exciting commissions in the works so keep yours eyes peeled. I’m also a finalist in the NSW Visual Art Emerging Fellowship with Artspace and Create NSW and will be part of a beautiful exhibition at the National Art School later this year. Outside of creative projects, I’ll be honing my meditation skills, cooking, and remembering to do my vocal warm ups every day.