“As an artist and a Chinese person, how do we reflect on this void in recent Chinese history?”

b. 1980 Fuxin, Liaoning Province. Lives and works Beijing.

Sun Xun creates complex fables critiquing the global twenty-first century culture of avid consumption, corruption and greed. He ranges across time and place for images and ideas, from Chinese myth to western modernist art, from cinema history and Japanese animation to literary classics such as Huxley’s Brave New World.  Navigating freely between 2D, 3D and time-based forms, he has become known for combinations of meticulously crafted woodcut prints, charcoal drawings and ink paintings, stop-motion animation and installation.

The 3D animation Time Spy (2016) animates more than 10,000 separate hand-carved woodcuts, at an old-school 15–18 frames per second. A shorter version was projected onto Times Square in New York for three minutes nightly, just before midnight, in July 2017. Winged violins, mechanical cogs and wheels, hybrid mechanised beasts, spinning planets, snowy landscapes and a menacing top-hatted magician appear and vanish in dizzying succession. Wearing 3D glasses, viewers are immersed in Sun’s narrative of the nature of time.

His invented nation state of Jing Bang (‘Whale Nation’) will, he says, emerge briefly from beneath the ocean before sinking again, vanishing like Manchuria, the USSR, or Yugoslavia. Republic of Jing Bang (2013) contains 49 separate, individually titled artworks, including a scroll more than 30 metres long depicting an enormous whale thrusting its body through sinuous curling waves. Scrolls, flags, propaganda, a manifesto – even passports and citizenship papers – attest to the ephemeral existence of this dictatorship, ruled by the malevolent Magician Party. In Sun Xun’s hands eclectic sources from eastern and western art become a new language of startling originality, allegories of the modern world.

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