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Hawai'i Triennial 2022
Group Exhibition Royal Hawaiian Center, U.S.A
Date: 02.18, 2022 - 05.08, 2022

Artists: SUN Xun 孙逊 | 

Sun’s Mythological Time (2016) is included in HT22 at the Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikīkī. The film invites viewers on an imaginative journey through the transformation of the artist’s hometown of Fuxin in northeastern China; now facing economic depletion, Fuxin was once home to the largest open-pit coal mine in Asia and the pride of Chinese modern industry. Sun’s animated film is composed of thousands of hand-drawn images in his distinctive stark monochromatic style and depicts a bewildering panorama of mythological creatures and lone figures traversing a post-industrial dystopian landscape. Expertly combining printmaking and painting techniques—ranging from woodcut, gestural dry-ink brush, and fine-line gongbi painting—Sun intertwines fantastical images that invoke the spiritual realm, folklore, and historical narratives in a potent imaginative cabinet of curiosities. A recurring theme of time in Sun’s work refers to his belief that time and life are underpinned by one’s perception of reality, and the passage of time is signified in Mythological Time by images of fossilized insects, abandoned monuments, and the gnarled roots of pine trees—a symbol of longevity and prosperity in Chinese culture.
The viewer is mesmerized by surrealist images of mythological creatures transforming into monuments, and captivated by a bold orchestral score enhanced with sweeping sounds of nature. The film ends with the transformation of a winged, four-legged creature into a Chinese stone stele, which then becomes the Soviet monument Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman (Rabochiy i Kolkhoznitsa) (1937), and lastly transfigures into the Statue of Liberty before exploding into Chinese and English text: ‘We Must Build an Idol to Resist fear’, and lingering on an image of a room bleakly filled with nine empty armchairs.
Upon invitation to participate in HT22, Sun chose to draw on newsprint gathered in Hawai‘i in 2020 during the pandemic. These works are presented with Mythological Time and together provide a visual narrative that draws on rich traditions of ink painting and printmaking, combined with an active voice of social and political change and a deep concern for the manipulation of the media, official narratives, and collective memory.
The Ancient Distance Uncover the Mystery of Reality, painted on Hawaiian newspapers, is about a temporal connection established between the artist's own background and the exhibition. Voyager 1, the farthest satellite away from Earth and never to return, carries the desire to find other civilizations in space, while the lyrics in the work come from the song "Aloha Oe" by the last queen of Hawaii. There is a geo-temporal connection between Voyager 1 and the song - the last romantic moment of a kingdom, while Sun Xun's animation work equally shows the last stubbornness of his homeland, a memory of a lost history, both equally beautiful and fragile like flowers, which will soon fade and grow again, in the illusion of time…

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