Yang YI

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Uprooted (2007)

Yang Yi was born in Kaixian 1971, Chongqing, China and currently lives and works in Chengdu. The majority of YI’s family had been highly interested in art or had a career in art, though YI never considered pursuing career in art when he was younger, his parents encouraged the artist from within but also gave him freedom to do as he wished. A very relaxed view for a Chinese family.

Yi studied Graphic Design at University; once he graduated, he set up his own advertising agency in Chengdu from 1993 to 2004 but later felt disheartened by commercial market. In 2006, Yi decided to go to the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts for a year and study a course in photography. Once he completed the course, he found it benefited his artistic vision and practice. It made him realise, the immensely powerful tool photography can be in helping to combine all the senses.

In 1994 the river Yangtze’s dam floated, which sadly submerged entire towns and cities under water. As The Yangtze River is a motif of creative expression it comes as no surprise that many artists were subsequently drawn to create a response to the disaster, artists such as Edward Burtynsky, Chen Nong. Of course being that Kaixian is Yi’s hometown, one of the many areas, eventually eradicated by the floods especially were in close proximity to the river. Yi would of course have to create the series ‘Uprooted’. Yang Yi wanted to document a tragedy that affected the lives of millions, but also a disaster that describes Yi’s identity and magical memories of childhood bliss. The Chinese government decided to plan a construction along the Yangtze River to transform the methods they used to produce the countries energy. The Three Gorges Dam Project was very controversial but got the go ahead to help stop the heavy flow of water as Yangtze River floods frequently due to high level of pollution.

Yi felt inspired by his dream to make the photographic series in 2008, though Yi was not present at the time of the flooding and was therefore unable to witness the damage done as he had moved away 15 years before this period due to his career. YI found it very distressing on the return to the town he loved so dearly, so full of joy and life it was no longer the place he once called home, destroying his childhood memories forever.

In 2006 when Yi started the series Uprooted he was not entirely sure of the emotions he felt about the series and so in 2007, it became hard for Yi to pinpoint if they were evocative of emotions of youth, infused with the grief of losing his childhood home. Retrospectively, he found that he cherished them more than ever. YI found that he wanted to embrace and cling on to everything in the pictures. Yi felt eternally indebted to, not only this town, but also the people whose roots were there. Whilst sleeping Yi had a terrible dream, Yi was back in his hometown, drowning in the torrent of the Yangtze River. The prophecy he had experienced fulfilled, and his home was lost forever.

“One morning, I don’t remember when exactly, I woke suddenly in a sweat, my heart pounding in panic. I remember just a hazy memory of my dream. In the dream, I was clothed, walking up and down familiar alleyways. I revisited my old school and was in a sense blinded by the dazzling light radiating from the cinema; I visited the riverside where I used to swim, the rooftops where I would retreat for a breath of fresh air, the winding pathways… Everything was eerie and shrouded in darkness, deserted; no friends or relatives were anywhere to be seen. In my dream, bubbles were rising and objects floating: where were they coming from? It became more and more difficult to breathe, I desperately tried to grab hold of something, I screamed but no sound came out…”

YI foreshadows an evocative moment expressing how the dam will eventually engulf everything in its path silencing it into a destitute ruin. YI captures and evokes a subterranean echo of its former self a seemingly beautiful quiet town inevitably forgotten. Photographing the last few inhabitants of the city, he conceptually submerges them in water, displaying the vernacular, daily settings, a hopeful sign that these memories will linger on. As a distinctly nostalgic: ethereal quality in the bestowed captured image. The photographer’s subjects wore diving goggles but he shot the various aqueous effects separately in a water tank, before marrying the two in Photoshop.

Yi completed the majority of the work between 2007 and 2008. It took slightly more than a year to finish the project. Yi attempted not to emulate any particular trends or styles, but tried to work with a variety of techniques. Yi instructed the models to wear diving goggles, and shot the scenes in medium format. The river water subsequently shot separately, light and air bubbles indicate the foam, creating the look with a transparent fish tank and the use of a digital camera. Subsequently Photoshop was the preferred mode used to combine both elements.

I think that it is extraordinary that Yi had already seen within the photography branch that you could combine all the senses to make such a statement through photographs. YI looks at his own identity through his hometown, lost forever. A profound tragedy to lose such magical memories in such a short period. I feel extremely empowered by YI enabling me look into my own identity, how my lymphoma could become part of my defined identity. I want to challenge the tragedy within myself and turn it into an inspiring uplifting story hoping in some way it should be therapeutic to me and to others.

To tell such a horrific story I would like to take inspiration in the use of submerging photographs underwater, to add rotary effect overlays on top of still photographs. I feel I could achieve this with the see-through bath, water and a projector so that I can capture the essence of this work but with my own twist therefore relating to my own personal story, much as YI has done. The way in which Yi looks at the daily life makes me want to draw attention to distinct vernacular objects, lymphoma is so hard to depict as a disease process as it is essentially a normal process that over reacts and therefore becomes abnormal. This is something I would like to incorporate in my work, I would like to display the hidden stories illustrated within my work.


Post-photography : the artist with a camera – by Robert Shore – Page 234-235



Catherine Yass

Corridors (1994)

Catherine Yass was born in England in 1963 and still works in London today. In 1986, Catherine received her B.A. at the Slade School of Fine Art, from 1988-1990, she studied her Masters in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College. Some of the major commissions that Yass’ work has been featured in vast exhibition sites, worldwide.

Yass, sought after for her idiosyncratic style in her film based photographic work. Catherine Yass is highly experimental with her techniques as she uses solarization, which involves manipulating the subject matter by overlaying the photographic film’s positives and negatives. The process where dark areas can be converted into light and lighter areas are subsequently inverted into dark. The reminiscent visions of Yass’ poignant past with heavily colour-saturated images emanate a coldness (also very similar to X-Ray) that communicates artist’s feelings and voice in a story she wishes to tell the viewer. The evocative qualities, the psychological atmosphere created in her photographs, beautifully systematized through the choice of claustrophobic subject matter: sinister corridors, staircases and empty cells. Yass reveals the skeletal structure of the architecture, the hunting ghost that lurks beneath the subject matter, yet it still feels like a realistic sense of space inside hospitals. Yass likes displaying her photographs in light-boxes when she exhibits, this adds to the luminous feeling, which combines otherworldly and surreal quality to her photographs.

Yass thoroughly inspires me to use a colour scheme, complimentary of both cold and warm tones as they both have separate connotations. I feel this is very significant to Yass’s work but also my own. The use of fire looks magnificent especially as it is been through a solarisation process and therefore the colour is faded. The process enables the human eye to store the colour. I would like to replicate this within some of my work I would like to use fire to represent and incorporate a meaning within my own work. Yass seems to tell a similar story to my own, especially as she has used corridors within a hospital environment, this should be something that I either replicate or use to inspire my photographs to tell my story. Yass inspires me to use film as part of my project; I can achieve the great amount of sharpness but also capture the naturally beautiful grain within the analogue process. I would also like to capture the high-intensity of the saturation that Yass has used as I feel this will create an instant magnificent impact on the viewer. I would perhaps also like to display my work similarly to Yass by using light boxes to illuminate the colour intensity.

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Walter Oltmann


Mother and Child (2013)

Walter Oltmann was born in South Africa in 1960, his focus became directed towards sculpture, he skilfully sculptured his art forms by fabricating woven wire into material objects, which frequently used local craft traditions. He spent a great deal of time researching the use of woven materials and the tradition of his chosen sculpture. Oltmann spends his time wisely as an artist, as his name has become synonymous with this traditionally African art form.

In 2007, he made a series based all around the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa. The artwork was of a skeletal pregnant mother and her baby; woven with fine wire to bear a resemblance to lacework that suggests permeable skin as it highlights the uncertain wall between an HIV infected mother and her child. The idea was to create intimacy and a delicate natural feel in the intricate detail of the work by using lace in the weaving. The choice of subject matter provides an emotive charge, the subject matter of skulls and a child’s skull this is unlikely to leave the audience without a reaction. He is referencing the natural bond and the cultured history between a mother and child. The skeletons feel very sentimental and give a sense of attachment which is why he felt it necessary to use this subject matter in so doing he was able to recreate an almost X-Ray level of detail on the interior of the human body.

“I manipulate industrial materials in a way that contradicts their prefabricated nature by emphasising hand-made processes.”

I feel heavily influenced by this work due to the techniques of using different materials to create metaphoric, semiotic and diverse narratives behind the work. As the work is very beautiful but also hauntingly intimidating in some harrowing aspects, I feel my work will relate to this vision, I will incorporate the use of powerful trauma within my work to provide a unified narrative to inform and educate the audience discovering all aspects of disease’s symptoms. I very much liked the skeletal body and the use of its form as it already creates a huge impact and provokes emotive reactions

The solitude that this artwork provokes when viewed is something I would rather like to recreate; I believe that a solitary body creates a greater depth in terms of the connected connotations, the relationship of how it relates to somebody psychologically. I feel that this artwork is so poignant and urges me to recreate the chosen aesthetic style but I would like to submerge the style in a bathtub, through a projection to recreate the same level of poignancy. I will exchange the bodies positioning to emphasise the itching/burning but also the drowning or engulfing feeling thus creating the feelings I felt that the disease created in me. I would like to photograph myself from above a bathtub but changing my positioning, this will ultimately enable me to narrate the story through my body image. I shall create watery effects moving over the still image of my body to recreate a bath like simulation, I will place a red overlay over the top to symbolise fire and danger and perhaps a flickering light from below to help recreate fire like simulation.

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