Sun Xun: Yesterday is Tomorrow

Merging traditional Chinese motifs with technological know-how, artist Sun Xun’s animations are brimming with tensions, conflicts and a dark underlying political story.

SUN Xun 21 KE (21 GRAMS) 21 ? Video|Single-Channel Animation 2010 27 minutes Edition of 8 Copyright the artist

Source: Courtesy the Artist and shangh Art Gallery

SUN Xun21 KE (21 GRAMS) 21 ?VideoSingle-Channel Animation201027 minutesEdition of 8Copyright the artist

Next week sees the opening of Xun’s new show at London’s Hayward Gallery Project Space, Yesterday is Tomorrow, which will show a number of the artist’s black-and-white and colour animations, including 21 KE [21 Grams] (2010) –  the first ever Chinese animation to be shown at the Venice Film Festival. 

The New China
The New China

The works are created using hand-drawn illustrations, with the fastidiously executed images then rendered digital.

From 2011 animation «Some actions which haven’t been defined yet in the revolution»
From 2011 animation «Some actions which haven’t been defined yet in the revolution»

The pieces frequently also draw on techniques including traditional Chinese printmaking and calligraphy, often formed over pages of old Communist magazines and newspapers as reference to the relentless political propaganda the artist says he encountered during his childhood and adolescence in Fuxin, a small province in the North East of China.

From Clown's Revolution animation, 2010
From Clown’s Revolution animation, 2010

Xun also uses canvas and silk as materials, and these prints and images are filmed one frame at a time to form textural, eerie, animations.

From Clown's Revolution animation, 2010
From Clown’s Revolution animation, 2010

The blend of illustration, text, collage and sound is a powerful one, working in allusion and metaphor to explore ‘political history and collective memory’, according to the Hayward.

Sun Xun: Yesterday is Tomorrow runs from 16 January – 23 February at the Hayward Gallery Project Space, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1

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