Pines, Needles, Mushrooms, Ink, Paint: A Botanical Rhapsody
October 8 – November 5, 2021
Curated by Lilly Wei
Reception: Friday, October 8, 2021
2PM – 6PM
Gallery 456/Chinese American Arts Council
456 Broadway, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10013
Ghostly landscapes wavering on silk, sculpture, and abstract paintings make up Xiaojing Yan’s first solo exhibition in New York. It features a site-specific installation, two unusual portrait busts of a young girl, and a few abstract ink paintings on paper, all from 2016-2020. Some of the materials she uses are surprising even if we are accustomed to contemporary artists’ idiosyncratic, unfettered choices.
The installation, Mountain of Pines (2017), was inspired by the imagined, impossibly serene landscapes of traditional shan shui (mountain sea) paintings, which emerged in the 5thcentury and are synonymous for many with Chinese painting.
Yan also innovatively, idiosyncratically balances the botanical and the artistic in her work, perhaps most strikingly in a series of remarkable sculptures made from lingzhi mushrooms, Lingzhi Girl, made between 2016-2020, all life-sized, recalling the many Chinese folktales and legends about the its magical properties—healing, long life, and even immortality—that were told to her as a child. and remain fascinating to her.
The series Naturally Natural is another instance of Yan’s exploration of collaboration between artist, materials, and chance, a variant on the theme of Lingzhi Girl, using acrylic, Chinese ink, and yupo paper.
Yan (born in Xuzhou City, Jiangsu, China in 1978 and based in Toronto, Canada) straddles two cultures, influenced by both although she is most deeply invested in representations of her native heritage. Her preference is evident in her subject matter, often based on traditional Chinese landscape paintings, aesthetic canons and its ancient folktales, legends, healing treatises, spiritual teachings, and philosophies. Landscape and the concept of place are central to her practice, infused with the émigré’s complicated sense of cultural and psychological bifurcation. Yan left China in her early 20s after graduating with a BFA from Nanjing University of the Arts in 2000. She then earned an MFA in sculpture at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Pennsylvania in 2007, afterwards settling in Toronto where she has lived ever since. Yan’s project is exemplary for these disorienting, unprecedented times and reminds us that we must live in accord with nature–or suffer the catastrophic consequences.