Huang Yan

Chinese Shan-Shui: Tattoo No.9, 1999
chromogenic print
49.5 x 59.6 cm

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Redgate Gallery, Beijing
Private collection, Sydney

Other examples from the edition of these works have been exhibited in:
'Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China, 2004-2006', International Centre of Photography and Asia Society, New York; Smart Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle; Victoria & Albert Museum, London, cat. no.107 and no.108,

Andrea Albertini and Primo Marella, 'Out of the Red: The New Emerging Generation of Chinese Photographers', Bologna, 2004, pp. 57-71, illustrated in colour

This is a selection of three photographs from the full series of ten Chinese Shan Shui: tattoo images conceived of by Huang Yan and executed in partnership with his wife Zhang Teimei.

Here, the corporeal body is skillfully used as an artistic medium, and cloaking the immediacy of exposed flesh is a subtle play between what is candidly visible and what is offered up as a realm into which viewers can escape. ‘The immediate sensation evokes the essential nature of Chinese painting, the anticipation of what lies hidden within.’
(Karen Smith)

Object and photography converge upon the artist’s body, which has been given as the traditional ground for painted work. In this complex concatenation and layering of media the artist seamlessly brings forth a contemporary language ‘rooted in the techniques, motifs and creative approaches that belong to the revered compendium of Chinese culture.’ (ibid.)

The series is given its name by the Shan Shui landscape, a style of composition particular to traditional Chinese ink painting, in this instance inked as would be a tattoo, directly on to the body with images flowing from base of the neck right down to the fingertips. Yan’s body lends to the imagery, a sense of proportion beyond itself, whilst amplifying the delicate sense of meandering, flow and gentle humour that developed through the ink painting of pre-Tang dynasty (618-907).

'Even with the stillness of a photograph, the surface of a living body breathes life into the painted image. The curving roundness of this human armature enhances the mystic qualities of the landscape, the valleys and clearings which cradle a tiny house or figure.'
(Karen Smith Mountains and Water Spirit TZ Gallery, Hong Kong)

  • Chinese Shan-Shui: Tattoo No.9

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