St. Louis Exhibit Explores the Art of Animation

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If you are looking for things to do in St. Louis, you should check out Sun Xun’s transformative and dreamlike exhibit, “Time Spy,” at the St. Louis Art Museum.

“Time Spy” is a 3-D film that combines the art of animation with woodblock printing. The combination of woodblock carvings and animation creates a stylistic film and surreal experience for viewers.

To create the film, Sun Xun and his team of artists carved more than 10,000 woodblocks to be used in each individual frame. Woodblock carving has been a printmaking technique for over a thousand years. Woodblocks can be carved intricately enough even the fine texture of a bird’s feather or claw can be seen. A large selection of the blocks used to make the nine-minute film are also on display at the exhibit.

Sun Xun, a Chinese artist, has a career of making art influenced by China and its political climate. The film explores a haunting landscape influenced by Eastern and Western art. Driven by visual narration, viewers are treated to a clash of fantasy and reality. Much like how the film was created, a strange fusion of nature and technology can be seen throughout the film, such as birds with camera heads squawking at each other over several uncanny sequences.


“Time Spy” is Sun Xun’s first 3D film, according to the St. Louis Art Museum. The film premiered in 2016 at Art Basel in Miami, then showed on multiple screens in New York City’s Times Square.

The “Time Spy” exhibit will run at the St. Louis Art Museum until Aug. 12. To learn more about “Time Spy,” visit

Written by HP Jarden

Photos by Shelby Clayton