The Other Wave: Contemporary Chinese Photography @ Ben Brown Fine Arts

Head down the hidden and somewhat secluded Brook’s Mews in London’s West End and you will find the delightfully understated Ben Brown Fine Arts Gallery, hidden in a quant basement below street level. On display are contemporary works by Chinese photographers including Chen Wei, Cheng Ran, Jiang Pengyi and Ye Linghan with their pieces taking on various styles and trends of photography and video art.

In the 1980s in China the term ‘The New Wave’ was coined to describe an avant-garde art movement in which documentary photography played a central role, now, in the present day, contemporary art in China is being dominated by photography and video art more than ever. This domination however seems to have been missed and overlooked by the Western World making this exhibition the perfect time for the art public to acquaint itself with the imagery that these photographers are creating right now. These photographers are demanding to be heard in the wake of their high profile painting peers who have in recent years shattered auction results.

Archival ink jet print 120 x 150 cm; (47 1/4 x 59 1/8 in.)

The exhibition collects together four photographers whose work range in subject matter. Images range from the bleak, isolated and abandoned to heady, crowded areas that are both fun to look at yet alienating at the same time. Chen Wei’s work depicts elaborate scenes constructed of found materials choreographed into a surreal studio setting. Tackling isolating and abandoned scenes that reek of dystopia, Wei presents imagery that is challenging and uncomfortable. In his File Clerk photograph a man walks alone along a concrete walkway in the middle of an expanse of dark water and mist, in another piece, Anonymous Station  he highlights his taste for abandoned, forgotten and eerie spaces which seems to be a recurring theme within his imagery. Other pieces by the photographer highlight alienation in a city setting, in the photograph titled Countless Unpredictable Stand No. 1, a male stands alone above a city landscape creating a sense of wonder and loneliness at once within this dense concrete environment where no one else can be seen except for one solitary character.

Archival ink jet print 100 x 150 cm; (39 3/8 x 59 1/8 in.)

Ye Linghan photographs and video based works link the past to collective histories. Linghan’s work on display defies focus to the individual and instead makes the scene and setting prominent. Blurring details with the haze of memory, the viewer projects their own thoughts, feelings and memories on to the piece.

C-print 5 panels; 60 x 80 cm; (23 5/8 x 31 1/2 in.) each

Third artist on display, Cheng Ran dramatically stages his work which creates a romantic feeling within his pieces. Collected from different bodies of work, his pieces act as a short retrospective of the young photographer’s work. His work is rich in cinematic quality with a strong narrative running throughout, particularly the barren and destitute images of Hollywood. These images highlight how Hollywood has played such a key role in the shaping of American as well as the rest of the Western World’s identity and how it all seems a bit empty. These images are stark and fascinating due to the editing of the photographs which questions the physical beauty of Hollywood. This questioning is further highlighted by his piece The Still of Unknown Film where a hundred dollar bill is lit, perhaps this is where Western obsession with money and Hollywood is heading, up in smoke.

Luster ink print 104.5 x 178 cm; (41 1/8 x 70 1/8 in.)

Last but not least is photographer Jiang Pengyi who highlights the destructive force of rapid urbanization, redevelopment and demolition that has overwhelmed Beijing. In his photographs he creates imagined miniature cityscapes and skyscrapers within real decaying domestic spaces, highlighting beautifully the destructive power that massive urbanization is having on the lived environments of the Chinese people. These photographs were my personal favourite due to their incredible detail but also due to the issues that they highlight. The images up close are astounding.

Ultra Giclée print 90 x 125.4 cm; (35 3/8 x 49 3/8 in.)

This show, whilst small, is a definite must see. It highlights all too well the stark realizations of our urbanized consumer based culture and how it is both destructive and alienating to our lived environments and to our personal lives. If this show is anything to go by, I predict that these photographers will be enjoying the same levels of success as their painting peers very soon.

The Other Wave: Contemporary Chinese Photography @ Ben Brown Fine Arts – runs until 29th January 2012

Advertisements
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: