Chinese artist Sun Xun does not talk about art. He talks about life. To him, it is one and the same.
“In life, don’t believe what your eyes, ears, or tongue, tell you. Believe in your heart, go where it tells you to go. Language is a limited tool, but art has no boundaries. How else can you capture warmth with black, or paint the colours of the world in a single ink stroke?” says Sun.
Sun’s first solo exhibition in Malaysia is self-titled, an apt introduction to his work and the mysteries of his mind.
Sun Xun, now showing at Richard Koh Fine Art in Kuala Lumpur, presents two stop-motion animation works, with original woodcuts and charcoal drawings; and a series of luminous watercolour lightboxes created for this show.
“This is my first time in Malaysia, so I did not know anything about the country when I painted these works,” shares the Beijing-based artist.
“But I wanted them to reflect the Malaysia I had in my head … a land of vibrant colours and light, warmth, magic and paradoxes.”
Sun, who hails from Fuxin, an industrial mining town in northeast China, located between Mongolia and North Korea, was 16 when he left home for Hangzhou to study art.
“It was liberating for me to be so far from home, but it was also confusing for a 16 year old. People in the south had different views from those in the north, and I had to read up on history and philosophy to better understand these differences,” he recalls.
Sun, 38, is a prolific artist who enjoys dabbling in a variety of media. It is how he keeps himself on his toes, thriving on new challenges.
“It is dangerous to think you know everything, that you are in control of the world. I’m always fighting with myself, attempting to break free from those prison bars, to make a bigger world for myself and to constantly reinvent my perspectives. I believe we are all artists, but not everyone knows that because we are too comfortable with the illusions we are living,” he elaborates.
Apart from this solo exhibition in KL, Sun has other shows running simultaneously at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney, and at the St Louis Art Museum in Missouri, the United States.
In November, he will have a solo exhibition in Shanghai.
He is currently working on his first feature film that draws on Eastern and Western traditions.
“It is another crazy project. It will include drawings and paintings, current affairs and politics and history. I want to put the whole world – including a lot of ideas about art – in this film. It is through art that you can make the impossible, possible,” he says.
Earlier this year, Sun received the Asia Arts Game Changer Awards in Delhi, India. In 2014, he won the young artist of the year at the 8th AAC Art China series. He spends half his time travelling outside China, and even for art residencies, he does not bring his art tools with him.
“I like oil paintings, so it is what I often do. But are you going to say you can’t create art when you are in a place with no oil paint? Do you say you can’t work, then? You should not impose such limitations in art,” he states.
This is why he makes it a point to work with whatever is readily at his disposal when away from home.
His animation works are also fantastical and surreal, as dark as they are hilarious and engaging, even if you are unable to put your finger on why exactly. Maybe it is the mystery that Sun weaves into his works that makes them such a curiosity.
After all, one of the animation works at Richard Koh Fine Art is titled 21 Grams, no doubt a reference to the supposed weight of a human soul.
“Everything you know in life – or think you know – is your prison. To break free of these shackles, you need to discard everything and move forward. Shed all preconceived ideas and bring only your soul with you,” says Sun with such careful thought put into words.
“It is the only way you can do new art, it is the only way you can truly be free.”