Skip to content
Sun Xun: Tears of Chiwen

AMFA’s New Media Gallery will act as a metaphorical portal, transporting visitors to an artist-designed, immersive environment. This flexible gallery space has the potential to display audio-visual works designed for projectors, television monitors, speakers, and even interactive digital platforms, allowing AMFA’s programming to reflect the myriad ways artists work in the 21st century. AMFA’s dedicated New Media Gallery is designed to present artworks created with emerging technologies such as interactive digital art and computer animation, as well as video. These works are shown on a continuous loop and guests are invited to visit the gallery anytime and stay as long as they wish.

Inspired by the AMFA Foundation Collection’s deep holdings of drawing, the Museum’s inaugural new media exhibition will consist of a projected video artwork created in part by hand-drawn, stop-motion animation: Tears of Chiwen, by Beijing-based artist Sun Xun. Sun incorporates a wide array of materials in his expressionistic animated films, combining painting, woodcuts, and charcoal and traditional Chinese ink drawings. Rooted in Asian art traditions, Sun’s work is also influenced by his admiration for Albrecht Dürer’s woodcuts and love of modernist cinema.

With its fast pace, expressive visuals, and engrossing soundtrack, Tears of Chiwen will have a broad appeal for AMFA visitors. The video cycles through many distinctive styles of animation over its 9-minute running time, featuring roughly 7,500 individual frames.

The chiwen named in the title is a mythical animal often seen as a roof ridge ornament in East Asia, intended to protect buildings against fire and flood. One of the nine sons of the dragon in Chinese mythology, the chiwen in Xun’s film cries in response to modernity and loss of cultural identity.

Referencing the complex relationships between China, Japan, and Korea, Tears of Chiwen comments on how western culture has been accommodated, sometimes resisted, and eventually absorbed in different ways throughout East Asia.

By exhibiting the work of a Chinese artist, AMFA reinforces its dedication to presenting and collecting work by international artists. Born in 1980 in Fuxin, an industrial mining city in Northeast China, Sun studied printmaking at the China Academy of Fine Arts, Hangzhou (2001–2005). He grew up in the period immediately following the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong’s violent crackdown on capitalism and traditional Chinese culture.

Its legacy has a profound impact on his work, evident in his often-revisited themes of global history, culture, memory, and politics, and his distrust of propaganda. “My father would drink Chinese saké and tell me stories about the Cultural Revolution,” Sun recalled. “What he told me was quite different from the history books at school which only had one page on the Cultural Revolution.”