With their sardonic humour, oblique metaphors, and fearlessly iconoclastic approach to genre, media, and subject matter, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, a Beijing-based duo, have rapidly become the most closely watched artists in Chinese art. In the late 1990s, they took the Beijing art scene by storm with their underground performances and installations, confronting conventional moral codes and values, often employing blood, human and animal cadavers, exhibiting a fully antagonistic approach the viewer's presumed moral complacency.
Over the next several years, Sun and Peng's unforgettable works could be found in the 5th Lyon Biennale in 2000, Yokohama's 2001 International Triennial of Contemporary Art, the First Guangzhou Triennial in 2001, and in the China Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005. Over time their approach to viewership has softened, giving their audience greater access to their dark humour and the issues that compel them. Indeed, their two installations from the exhibition, The Revolution Continues, held in 2008 in London's Saatchi Galleries, were the most celebrated and surprising highlights of the show.
Angel (Lot 1570), featured here, was one of those two pieces. A life-size sculpture of what appears to be an angel, laying face-down on the exhibition room floor. Composed using advanced silicon gels and other materials, the figure appears nearly human, and exhibits none of the ethereal, feminized qualities of the "angels" of popular imagination. Instead he has a blunt, crude materiality. He is old. His features are tired and weathered. His somewhat elegant mane falls loose and unkempt. His supple diaphanous robe has collected above his knees, presumably from a fall, revealing an unflattering view of his spindly legs. The texture of his luxurious gown contrasts with his 'wings', which more resemble archaic Jurassic era appendages.
Sun and Peng's works have always begged questions of mortality. Here their seductive humour masks this continued interest while potentially expands it to broader philosophical issues as well. It is hard to say whether our fallen angel is passed out drunk, collapsed from exhaustion, or expelled from heaven, swatted from his otherworldly perch with all the elegance of squashed mosquito. His advanced age inevitably suggests that our guardian angels are perhaps not as vital as we might like. It is not clear as to whether or not we have abandoned them, or they have abandoned us, but the ramifications of his ineptitude suggests the artists' own critical view of a world so deranged that even the angels have expired.