Chinese Artist Sun Xun Turns Hotel Quarantine into a Studio of Freedom

Solar Xun in his lockdown hotel amidst his perform. Courtesy of the artist

When Observer nearly related with Chinese artist Sunshine Xun, he experienced reworked an regrettable predicament into a proverbial chance. Sun Xun (b.1980) traveled from Beijing to Shanghai in March 2022 to prepare the opening of his new solo display, “An Infinite Journey” at ShanghART gallery, which presents blended media operate displayed as a playful and multidimensional expressionistic temper board of mythological provides and futures. Issues didn’t go as planned.

On the eve of the opening, the federal government requested to postpone the exhibit. COVID-19 had surged again. “I believed we would only need a couple of times,” he advised Observer. Then lockdown orders arrived the pursuing day. “The federal government advised us that it would very last for 5 days,” he provides. The artist bought woodcut resources to retain himself busy in advance of this, except five days turned into 5 additional days. “And now, it is been 10 5 days,” he laughs, from his lodge room—one of 26 million persons less than strict quarantine in Shanghai. 

Amongst empty Japanese beer containers, heartfelt jokes, and cigarette drags, he speaks about his working experience of confinement, artmaking, and resilience. When I ask him about his living conditions, he refuses to complain and dwell on day by day annoyances. “Now I begun doing work on a new animation film,” he says gleefully of the occupation that fills most of his times.

Sun Xun set up the Pi Animation Studio in 2006 and has considering that then participated in numerous festivals, these as the Torino Film Pageant in 2007, and Germany’s Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen in 2016. He pans his telephone digicam together a sample woodcut-like frame of a graphic, higher-distinction sketch that appears like Shanghai’s Bund in its pre-war heyday. “Art does not will need an justification. Artwork is all over the place.” And it is. All around his lodge toilet, bathroom lid, mirror, windows, and much more. His resort area is his new studio.

One particular of Solar Xun’s operates established on his mirror. Courtesy of the artist

When he ran out of artwork materials, he reverted to beer boxes that lodge employees discreetly furnished him and paper slice for white inserts. “I use fruit and my shoes to make animations. Even beer bottles. I use every little thing,” he states. Sun Xun graduated in printmaking at the China Academy of Wonderful Arts in 2005, but what he likes most is to improvise, recycle, blend, and problem externally-imposed restrictions. 

Sunshine Xun’s distinctive fashion borrows features and tactics from common ink-centered Chinese artwork to develop resolutely new landscapes and present-day levels that have interaction with the notions of surrealism, fantasy, and substitute globe-setting up. His perform lately featured in New York Metropolis, in the Asia Society Triennial “We Do Not Desire Alone” in 2020-2021. He then worked closely with curator Susan L. Beningson on July Coming Soon (2019), an artwork which queries our relationship to history, truth, and freedom—themes that obtain an eerie relevance in today’s blurry storytelling.  

“In Japan, I can get great excellent ink. In the US, superior acrylic and oil. I use different types. In Europe, I use pigments. In Holland, I used town trash. We phone it trash but it’s incredibly good art materials. I use choices. If you can only do painting, it’s not plenty of. Artists must do every little thing, in every single scenario. Art is flexibility. Freedom is extra significant than oil, woodcut, and sculpture. Liberty presents electrical power to the artist, not the elements staying applied. Art is about your spirit not your ability,” he states, reminiscing about a time when he could journey and check out other international locations significantly far more quickly than now. He pauses. “New York is my preferred metropolis.” 

However Sunlight Xun experienced a small confinement in 2021, these unpredicted 50-days-and-counting in a Shanghai lodge space feel unique this time. He turned to artmaking and started off documenting his practice online to keep sanity and routine—late rise, calligraphy to appease his coronary heart, lunch, get the job done as a result of the night time, punctuated by occasional and not-so-legal beverages and singing. (“Drinking and smoking is really vital, also!”)

Trash reworking into components in Sunlight Xun’s lockdown lodge. Courtesy of the artist

Sunlight Xun displays. He analyzes. He weighs and meticulously choreographs his conversation with theoretical proximity and distance. “What is everyday living? Lifetime is your entire body, and your soul.” Though our views can be constrained, he thinks that our souls can be boundless, mobilizing creativeness and transcending what seems like a wrestle at first.

“Imagination has extra power than an army,” he proposes, viewing in creativity a reference, vital toolkit in an artist’s adaptable palette. Creativeness is an escape, a way to independence. Reflecting on his latest confinement, he philosophizes on the indicating of deprivation at huge. “Our everyday living can be our jail, far too,” he says unless we flip our notion in direction of observing fullness in void, and company in hardship. “Let’s combat this shit!”

Nonetheless his parents’ health and fitness is deteriorating hundreds of miles away and he’s not capable to check out. Pandemic-similar constraints are becoming strictly enforced and just one simply cannot vacation to metropolitan areas in lockdown below China’s “zero COVID” policy even nevertheless it is probable unsustainable.

Isolation is relative as Solar Xun is able to abide by international information. He wishes to express his be concerned about the ongoing war in Ukraine and what this could indicate for China. “I really do not concur with this war, it’s quite stupid. I support Ukraine. Generate this. I assist Ukraine.” He repeats it. It’s essential for him. 

Regardless of not acquiring frequented any of his regular corners—New York, Japan, Europe— and many mates overseas, Sun Xun finds solace in exploring the potentiality of animated characteristic film as a malleable medium and language form that expand borders. In this research for expansive movement, he potentially indirectly emulates one particular of his protagonists, Xiaozhi, who travels to the land of Luocha described in his postponed solo display as “a country with no history, no memory” ruled by a ghost.

Solar Xun at perform in his lockdown hotel. Courtesy of the artist.

His new aspect film, which is getting edited at the time of composing reinterprets the tradition of the epic and fantastical tales. In the film, Solar Xun incorporates different aesthetics these as those people borrowed from the Chinese Han dynasty, but also Islamic functions (there’s above 20 million Muslims in China), oil painting, woodcut, and Chilly War-period newspaper once gifted to him by a German collector. It is a major undertaking. His composer is also in lockdown and all the things will take considerably extended than standard. But it would take larger hurdles to split his take care of. “My spirit is thoroughly totally free. It is nevertheless touring,” he says with a smile behind his metal-framed eyeglasses. “I just cannot stop,” he adds immediately after a considerate cigarette puff. “Never cease.”

He laughs just before recomposing himself. “Let’s make a new lifestyle!”
Chinese Artist Sun Xun Turned His Hotel Quarantine into a Studio of Infinite Freedom