Yan Wang PrestonFirst Prize Professional Commission
Yan Wang Preston, born in 1976, is a British-Chinese artist primarily interested in how landscape photography can challenge myths and reveal hidden complexities behind the surface of physical landscapes. Her previous work has won several international awards including the Shiseido Photographer Prize at the Three Shadows Photography Annual Award in Beijing, China (2015) and the Reviewer’s Choice Award at the FORMAT Portfolio Review in Derby, England (2014).
Her work has been shown at the Photographers Gallery, Dublin, Dubai Photo, the 56th Venice Biennale, Three Gorges Museum, Chongqing, China, Wuhan Art Museum, Hubei, China and the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai. Preston’s work is collected by the Wuhan Art Museum and is represented by the Three Shadows +3 Gallery in Beijing.
In order to make their environments more suitable for living, many expanding Chinese cities are buying mature trees to ‘build’ forests. Tree dealing has become a boom industry, with prices increasing in relation to the rarity and age of the tree in question. The outcome is as predictable as it is tragic: many trees struggle to survive in the new concrete forests. As early as 2011, I had begun to photograph these newly ‘built’ urban forests, documenting their growth by making repeated visits.
Mass urbanisation is happening in China and many other developing countries. How do we understand the conﬂicts between the expansions of cities and the need to protect existing ecologies? And how do we understand the difﬁculties and possibilities of establishing new ecologies in cities? I hope that my Forest project will encourage dialogues on these important and timely questions.
I would like to expand, deepen and ﬁnally complete my original Forest project.
Firstly, I will re-photograph some of the trees that I had been following. A tree’s life is long; sometimes it takes three years for it to become established at a new home. This makes return visits extremely important as a way of studying the trees’ adaption and how the new cities evolve with them.
Secondly, I will explore some new areas, particularly around the Yellow Mountains in central China. This culturally signiﬁcant but undervalued area is one of the birthplaces of traditional Chinese landscape paintings. I would like to explore ways in which the new forests are created according to traditional aesthetics: aesthetics that strive for an ideal harmony between man and his environment.
Thirdly, I will spend much of my time following the journeys made by some of the old trees from their homeland to cities. I will begin by exploring the Shangri-La area in Yunnan Province in South West China. A concentration of hydroelectric dams is present in this area where old trees in many ancient villages may be facing the fate of removal.