In partnership with the Audemars Piguet Art Commission, Times Square Arts presents artist Sun Xun’s Time Spy on Times Square’s electronic billboards from 11:57 p.m. to midnight every night in July. This project is a part of Midnight Moment, a monthly presentation by The Times Square Advertising Coalition (TSAC) and Times Square Arts. One of China’s most prominent young artists, Sun Xun created Time Spy for the second Audemars Piguet Art Commission in partnership with Sean Kelly Gallery, Edouard Malingue Gallery and Shanghart Gallery as part of a large-scale immersive multimedia installation first presented during Art Basel in Miami Beach in December 2016.
A violin with wings flies through a sky filled with spinning moons, while rotating machinery gives way to strange landscapes and pressure valves. These chimerical images come together in Sun Xun’s Time Spy, a 3D animated film created from thousands of individual hand-carved woodcuts. Hundreds of Chinese art students assisted Xun in carving each frame of the film, juxtaposing traditional and analog illustration methods with modern 3D animation across digital screens in a way that turns the antithetical into the elegant. The film employs images of traditional Chinese themes like the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire, and earth) in a symbolic exploration of the nature of time and how we try to make sense of it.
Video and music by Jason Akira Somma
Chinese artist Sun Xun made his 3D animation ‘Time Spy’ using 10,000 separate woodcuts.
He tells White Rabbit about the process and his inspiration—White Rabbit Collection
“This world has no specific time; we live in vanity” — Sun Xun
The works of Sun Xun are mainly drawing and/or short animation. Sun Xun also exhibits his individual cell drawings and other mixed media works, often times alongside his films. His series of small mixed media works, entitled “Shock of Time” (2006), challenged notions of time, history and narration and utilized media such as newspapers, books and other documentary material that served to highlight certain passages of history. 21 KE (2010) was produced 3 years after its commencement and mainly completed by use of pastel and fusain on canvas. It constructs an impressive world full of wonders all in black and white. “Some Actions Which Haven’t Been Defined yet in the Revolution” (2011) is made by woodblock printing – a technique that was an important tool during the Cultural Revolution. This printing technique was used as an primary means of communication to quickly convey information to the masses. Clown’s Revolution (2010), Beyond-ism (2010) and other such new works exhibit Sun Xun’s recent attempt and breakthrough in the use of Chinese ink painting in his work. Although it is difficult, there is no doubt that the works are a perfect blend of traditional and contemporary art.
Reality and fantasy, time and history, both are continuously seen in Sun Xun’s work. Works such as “21 KE”, “Magician’s Lie” and “Requiem” feature a key protagonist; a magician dressed in a black suit and a high top hat. The magician has been in search of another world, probably a utopia. Over the course of this character’s expedition, the sequences are dreamlike and apocalyptic. Sun’s works explore themes of societal development and revolution, referencing such theorists as Marx, Adorno, and Horkheimer.
His major animation works include: “Protestant”(2017), “Tears of Chiwen”(2017)，“Mythological Time” (2016), “Time Spy”(2016), “The Time Vivarium”(2014), “Magician Party and Dead Crow”(2013), “Some Actions Which Haven’t Been Defined yet in the Revolution”(2011), “Clown’s Revolution”(2010), “Beyond-ism”(2010), “21 KE (21 GRAMS)”(2010), “People’s Republic of Zoo”(2009), “New China”(2008), “Coal Spell”(2008), “Requiem”(2007), “Heroes No Longer”(2007), “Lie”(2006), “Mythos”(2006), “Lie of Magician”(2005), “A War About Chinese Words”(2005).
For Sun’s work “21 KE (21 GRAMS)” the artist provides this synopsis: “This world has no specific time; we live in vanity. This is a confusing world. There’s no law, no rule, and the lie dominates everything. There’s lying and being lied to only. Telling a lie is morally condemned everywhere, but a magician is the only exception. When people feel lost, they mortgage their souls, and pin their hopes on magicians. Yes, magicians are the authority! A lie is the truth! And it’s cheap!”
—in ShanghART Gallery (read more)
Tears of Chiwen
Chinese artist Sun Xun speaks to White Rabbit about his animation ‘Tears of Chiwen’