In the Shadow of History
Sun Xun at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

He is one of the most interesting young Chinese artists. In his expressive drawings, paintings, and animated films, Sun Xun investigates the contradictions of a society caught between centuries-old traditions and rapid modernization. Now the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) in Sydney is presenting a comprehensive retrospective of the artist, who is represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection with many works. Among the highlights of the show are two works created expressly for the MCA: Maniac Universe, an over 40 meter long mural on handmade paper, and Who First Saw the Stars?, a series of 25 overpainted woodcuts. Both works are illuminated by ultraviolet light, which makes their fluorescent colors glow.  

In his oeuvre, Sun combines traditional artistic practices such as painting, woodcut, and calligraphy with modern, digital imaging techniques. The history and current situation in China provide the subtext for many of his works. But there are also allusions to the global present – not least of all because in recent years Sun has often used international newspapers as material for his paper works. The artist, who was born in 1980, is an obsessive draughtsman, even working on flights to his many exhibitions across the globe.

In addition to horses, turtles, and dragons a very enigmatic character has appeared in his works for a few years now: a magician wearing a top hat. The artist calls him “the only legal liar.” It remains open whether this character is a kind of alter ego of the artist or an antagonist who wants to manipulate our view of the world. Today, Sun Xun’s mysterious magician can also be viewed as a symbol of all politicians who operate unabashedly with “alternative facts” – in China and in the West.

Sun Xun
Until October 14, 2018
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney