In the 1950s and 60s, and again in the 80s, a batch of original, hand-drawn animations won China prizes at international film festivals. With the rise of computers and their upgraded efficiency, however, enthusiasm for traditional animation and its format has waned among creators. Obsessed with the balmy freedom of hand painting, and with the original intention of creating art works, artist Sun Xun has been invited to participate in more than 100 international film festivals, and also at major international art galleries, such as London’s Hayward Gallery, to take part in either individual or group exhibitions.
Sun Xun graduated in 2005 from the China Academy of Fine Arts Faculty of Printing. Beginning from 2003, he started experimenting with animation creation. Using ink-and-wash, woodcuts, powdered pigments and other hand painting methods he embarked upon the animated short film creation process as a way to convey his take on reality, illusion, time and history that he manifests in his works. In 2010, he finished a short animation that had taken shape over four years, 21 G, staging an exhibition thereof under that name the same year at Mingsheng Art Museum. This 27-minute short animation, with its voluminous information, strong personal awareness, extensive use of long-lens, and painstakingly handpainted and technical details, became the first selection at the Venice Film Festival for a Chinese animation.
In 21 G, a magician dressed in a top hat and tails plays the lead role - since the artist recognizes that “only a magician is a legitimate liar” - and conducts viewers to seek out another world – a utopia. The work further invokes a number of themes touching on social development and evolution, and features various theorists like Marx, Adorno and Horkheimer. The artist hid a lot of sealed information among the slides that ordinary people usually cannot detect, such as the microscope in one lens in 21 G that is actually the first microscope in human history. The artist thereby admonishes viewers that: From this point on, our world has many parallel worlds; before this event these worlds did not exist in our consciousness, yet they were an objective reality nonetheless. At the very end of 21 G, a person confronts the boundless ocean with a drawn-out wailing, allowing the oppressive sense that has permeated the entire film to find its release.
In 21 G, each lens used has a pastel painting as the basis for its development. In 21 G, one of the few large-scale works, the close-up shot of the crow and magpie, with sailing clouds filling the sky and the magician in the background in his top hat hovering above the victory column perched on a huge mosquito makes for a highly illusory scene. Crow and magpie, mosquito, magician, these are important talismans often appearing in Sun Xun’s representative works. In a long-shot view appearing before the viewers’ gaze, and pregnant with religious sentiments, the edifices on the left and right sides constrict a space as if they bounded a tunnel into the sky.
When discussing the text of 21 G, the artist recalls: We are always asking about life so that we can realize its value or meaning, constantly seeking new reference systems to define our own existence. However, the world may not always accord with our wishful thinking and may rather be complex and diverse, with many systems coexisting in this parallel mixture, and when we attempt to institute some sort of final care, we may discover that we have placed ourselves in the world’s most marginalized location, standing atop a towering cli f. We are always in such a frantic state, but we can feel the light of the truth we can never touch. The world is round, and our lives are like p (pi), never ceasing in their approaching, but yet caught in an endless cycle we cannot stop …