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(Yonhap Interview) Chinese artist explores lost Korean tradition

2017/09/07 10:01

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By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, Sept. 7 (Yonhap) -- Through Sun Xun's artworks in various mediums -- drawings, installations and animations -- one might get a glimpse at the sheer size of the Chinese artist's artistic potential and scope.

Indeed, he is considered one of China's most talented and prolific young artists, who is in high demand in the global art scene. Most recently, he featured a 3-D animation "Time Spy" on Times Square's electronic billboard. In 2016, he was among the artists who exhibited at "Tales of Our Time" at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The photo provided by Arario Gallery in Seoul is of Chinese artist Sun Xun. (Yonhap) The photo provided by Arario Gallery in Seoul is of Chinese artist Sun Xun. (Yonhap)

Sun defies being defined by the tools that he uses to create art. In fact, he refuses everything that characterizes his art world.

For his first solo exhibition in Seoul, he tried traditional Chinese landscape painting for the first -- and probably the last -- time.

"I try to do something new. I don't want to copy myself," Sun told Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday at Seoul's Arario Gallery.

Sun's art pieces are on view at the gallery's three floors, from Wednesday until Nov. 5. For the Korean exhibition, "Tears of Chiwen," he has created his trademark artworks of ink drawings and a hand-drawn animation, inspired by traditional ornaments perched at the end of an old Korean building's roof ridge.

The nine-minute single-channel video follows Korea's past and present, myth and reality, and confusion and excitement arising from rapid industrialization, with a witty twist and humor. On the basement wall hangs a massive drawing on bark wood paper that he created on the site for a week.

"My job is the best game for me. I can't have a holiday. If I lie down on the beach even for half a day, I will want to kill myself."

  

This photo provided by Arario Gallery in Seoul shows Chinese artist Sun Xun drawing in the basement of the gallery. He created the site-specific painting for a week. (Yonhap) This photo provided by Arario Gallery in Seoul shows Chinese artist Sun Xun drawing in the basement of the gallery. He created the site-specific painting for a week. (Yonhap)

Among many interesting aspects of Sun as an up-and-coming artist are his daring boldness to do things his own way and overcome his limits.

Sun said he doesn't believe in formal education, in particular, historical narratives taught at school. He also dismissed grouping people by their passports, saying that people are shaped by culture and upbringing, not nationality.

"Education can be dangerous. It only shows you one direction. But history can't be told in one direction," he said.

Presenting his unconventional thinking through art, Sun belongs to "Balinghou" or the post-'80s generation of China, a term for those who were born in the 1980s after the introduction of a one-child policy in 1979 and grew up feeling a yawning gap between themselves and their parents deeply affected by the Cultural Revolution.

This photo provided by Arario Gallery in Seoul shows Chinese artist Sun Xun's works on view at the basement of the gallery. (Yonhap) This photo provided by Arario Gallery in Seoul shows Chinese artist Sun Xun's works on view at the basement of the gallery. (Yonhap)

Born in Fuxin, a northwestern border city in Liaoning province, he studied printmaking at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou.

He came from a family that was deemed unfriendly to a new government. His father wasn't allowed to attend a regular school.

"You are from a dirty family. You don't have a right to go to school," he described the social stigma that followed his family, though he was less affected than his father was.

Growing up, he heard so many contrasting narratives about Chinese history -- and that of other nations for that matter -- and he naturally grew skeptical of what he learned from textbooks, he said. He started asking questions.

"When you want to get answers, you get to have more questions. You never stop studying," he said. "The world is your teacher. You teach yourself."

   He believes the role of artists is to help expand the intellectual horizon and possibilities of human beings.

"By making something, you make a new world. Yesterday it didn't exist in the world. Today, you add this new part to the world. It is from you. So you should be proud of that. I really enjoy doing that."

  

This photo provided by Arario Gallery in Seoul shows a scene from Sun Xun's animation "Tears of Chiwen." (Yonhap) This photo provided by Arario Gallery in Seoul shows a scene from Sun Xun's animation "Tears of Chiwen." (Yonhap)

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr

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