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MHS Library | Chinese contemporary art

New Landscapes

At first glance these images by artist Yao Lu might resemble traditional Chinese landscape paintings of cliffs, waterfalls, and mountains. But if you look more closely you will see something else. Lu digitally assembles each of his images using photographs of landfills and other aspects of urbanization draped in green mesh to mimic idyllic scenery. Lu seems to be making a thinly-veiled commentary on the encroaching ecological threat of urbanization. Source: Colossal blog

About Yao Lu

Chinese, b. 1967

Yao Lu is rapidly making a name for himself in the discourses of environmental art. His concern about the impact of China’s rampant path towards urbanization is portrayed in photomontaged manipulations that borrow from the classical Chinese aesthetic style of painting. Mostly circular, fan-shaped, or scroll-like, Lu’s harmonious landscapes are populated by tiny figures walking through the mist. However, a closer look reveals the chimerical mountain scenes are in fact construction sites scaled out of proportion. Lu’s commentary on the dramatic consequences of China’s rapid industrialization is further reinforced by the artist’s stylistic choices. His recycling of a traditional aesthetic to approach contemporary issues reveals the tension between society’s past and present values. Lu’s environmental message crosses borders and raises pressing questions about the hidden costs of modernization and global sustainability.

Lu was born in 1967 in Beijing, China. He attended the Central Academy of Fine Arts, where he currently teaches as an Associated Professor. He received his M.A. in Visual Arts from the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. In 2008 he won the Paris Photo BMW Prize for contemporary photography, and was short listed for the prestigious Prix Pictet award the following year. He made his New York debut with a major solo exhibition entitled “New Landscapes” at Bruce Silverstein in 2009.

He has participated in numerous exhibition and festivals including the Museum of Photographic Art, San Diego; the Royal Academy of Art, London, UK; Fotofest International in Houston; Multi-medium Art Exhibition “Space and Transportation”, Graz, Austria; Paris Photo, France; and at GETXOPHOTO Festival, Bilbao, Spain. His work has been viewed in prominent institutions in the East including the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Turkey; National Museum of Fine Arts, Beijing, China; A9 Art Gallery, Beijing, China; Beijing Art Gallery, China; Brisbane Photography Exhibition, Brisbane, Australia; Daegu Photo Biennale, Daegu, South Korea; Lianzhou International Photo Festival, China; Made In China Fotofestival, Lodz, Poland; Pingyao International Photography Festival, China; and the SuoLuo Gallery, Beijing, China. He lives and works in Beijing. (Source: Colossal blog)

Artist's statement

Generally speaking, my works use the form of traditional Chinese painting to express the face of China. Today, China is developing dramatically and many things are under constant construction. Many things have disappeared and continue to disappear. The rubbish dumps covered with the ‘shield’, a green netting, are a ubiquitous phenomenon in China.

I want the world to be able to make a benign transformation. People must protect the environment. This work implies that the world should become more and more harmonious.

Photography can be understood in traditional ways: It can ‘record’ many histories long before our own time, and it can take people back to times and situations many years ago. But photography is also very contemporary. It can re-assemble and re-edit the things that we see in order to produce illusions that people see when they are in front of such photographic works. In these works, you see images that are both real and fictional.

Concerning the style of my works, I believe in maintaining a beautiful feeling in the framing of the image, including composition, line, density and framing, all the elements regularly contained in painting. I think a good artwork is composed of many elements, and it should reflect the knowledge and the skill of the artist. A good artwork has intelligence.

The flexibility of photography provides an expressive space for me. I can work with it in many ways in making my creations.

New Mountain and Water