Born Handan, Hebei, 1961. Lives and works in Beijing

“Forty years of tribulations” is how Sun Furong sums up her life. Becoming a full-time artist was a long, hard struggle, during which she worked as a seamstress to survive. When in 2000 she finally found a home in a Beijing artists’ village, it was clothing and scissors that she used to express her lifelong “sense of bleakness and desolation”. At first she tried making traditional cut-paper designs in cloth, but the results seemed too neat and pretty. It was only when she began hacking at old clothes, making “the cut-up pieces dance wildly, free from all restraints, patterns and forms”, that the work felt right.  The result was the Nibbling Up series, in which she slashed at labourers’ clothes and army uniforms and—in the case of Tomb Figures (2008)—100 zhongshan tunics, or Mao suits, the universal attire of Maoist China. Lined up shoulder to slackened shoulder, the tattered suits look like slumping, worn-out people. Stabbing them, Sun Furong said she felt as if she was attacking herself; later “it was as if I were cutting someone else”. Finally, she says, she became calm, “quite pleased and cheerful”, her forty years of tribulations, and those of her country, exorcised at last.

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