Shaoyan Yu “A Monologue”
I first discovered the images of Shaoyan through an online exhibition titled “Compressed Architecture” that was presented on JZZP’s WeChat account. Shaoyan contributed calm, simple photographs of buildings that he took while studying in Berlin. I then saw his series “The Gestures of Flowers,” an emotional work for which he used Washi Film – a novel black-and-white film that mimics traditional Japanese washi paper. The looming, flowing images looked akin to Chinese ink paintings, and I believe it is with this tool and his background in calligraphy that Shaoyan found his style.
Shaoyan has wandered far from the motherland, absorbing East and West and adapting his language along the way. But he has retained a sense of solitude and an ability to project emotion onto mountains, clouds, the sea – indeed, all natural beings. Elements originating in traditional Chinese painting merge with reality in his pictures. He presents us with a reiterative monologue, flickering between heaven and earth.
Shaoyan is in love with landscape and the askew perspectives of traditional Chinese painting. But he was not content to remain in the province of “tradition.” Studying overseas, he tried to make work that Westerners could understand and appreciate. He explored combinations of Chinese calligraphy and painting and contemporary photography, striving to make modern art.
This is an ambitious goal. And since discovering Washi Film, he has made significant progress. Influenced by the Japansese painter Inoue Yuichi, he decided to use black-and-white film as a form of abstract ink, drawing from abstract expressionism and romantic landscape paintings of Germany. He has also been writing poems, creating calligraphy, and exploring the potential of installations. New possibilities open all the time.
Shaoyan is still exploring. When he graduated from his undergraduate program in calligraphy, he wrote a large “觉,” which means “feelings” and “introspection.” Then, when he went to Germany to study, he created his “flower trilogy” – “death,” “rebirth,” and “bloom.” He is always looking for “the brightest light in the darkness.” Now he is unsatisfied with himself and on the road to something bigger. I appreciate his lonely persistence.