star anise, metal pins
Like many Chinese artists, Yan was introduced to visual art through Chinese ink painting – exploring popular motifs of clouds, rocks, mountains and water. Mountains are sacred spaces, regarded by some as a gateway between the mortal world and the heavenly realm. With Star Mountains, Yan reinterprets shanshui paintings and the legends associated with the deepest mountain wildernesses by utilizing an unconventional material – hundreds of dried star anise pods. These pods and their shadows suggest a landscape inhabited by the silhouettes of trees, creatures, or people. With its strong aroma, star anise is an ingredient widely used in Eastern cuisine. As with the imagery of Chinese ink paintings, the scent of star anise transports the artist back to her early experiences in China. The intangibility of the aroma and the ephemeral shadows of the star anise on the wall are key ingredients generating the atmospheric quality of this work – which is both here and there at the same time.