All painters live daily lives of dreams and imaginary visions that they present as alternative truths. It is a universal characteristic of painters that they do not present literal reality, but distil the visual world into a subjective engagement with the real. The distinction is that while ‘reality’ possesses the quality or state of being actual or true, the ‘subjective real’ is that which is deemed personally to be genuine or authentic. The ‘subjective real’ frames a truth that has a particular truth as meaning, that is to say as opposed to ‘reality’ which is the truth born of nothing more than the mere fact of an event. In this respect Xu Shun’s use of found photographic materials and images, derived as they are from the whole array of popular Chinese press and media sources, should not be seen necessarily as a pursuit of a direct social engagement with the events depicted – though this could equally be a bi-product. They are after all images that are taken from the aesthetics of the commonplace, a translation of the mundane into an elevated sense of the real. As Xu Shun’s use of such sources implies, they necessarily provoke chosen point of departure in order for him to make a painting. Therefore when looking at Xu Shun’s images you are left in no doubt that you are looking primarily at a painting.
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