Born 1984, Beihai, Guangxi

Many of Xu Shijun’s works centre on his childhood. “For me, my childhood means the [coastal] area where I grew up and my father.” The photographs in his Perfect Reflecting Diffuser series (2008) are set on a beach that is empty save for a single figure (in one image, this is made up of a man standing on another’s shoulders). Formally dressed, with features obscured, it “stands there like a standard of measure, a ruler,” the artist says. This untouchable and lonely-looking figure represents Xu Shijun’s father. “He was always serious and very strict. He was distant, like an emperor. His rules were not to be questioned. A lot of fathers in China are like that.” The title echoes the aura of impenetrability: a perfect (reflecting) diffuser is a theoretical perfectly white surface that reflects all light that falls on it, absorbing nothing.

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