Yau Lu

Thanks to Hyperallergic’s An Xiao for this article about Yau Lu’s landscape photographs:

But as I looked closer, I noticed that what was supposed to be an ink painting was actually a photograph. Yao carefully adjusted the image on Photoshop to create the semblance of a shanshui painting, down to little details like a red chop for the artist’s signature.

They are actually images of landfills, dumps, and rubble. The green netting is a common sight at these places.

Chinese landscape painting uses shifting perspective in order to allow the viewer to imagine walking through the landscape. By disguising these junkspaces as traditional majestic landscapes, the artist kind of tricks the viewer into strolling through these places where no one would want to stroll. Brilliant and beautiful.

This is our new landscape. The Fresh Kills Landfill is bigger than the Great Wall.

Yao Lu, "Mountain Trek" (2009)

"Mountain and Straw Houses in the Summer" (2008)


Kowloon Walled City

I recently heard an amazing podcast by 99% Invisible about the former walled city of Kownloon. (Episode 66.)


Image above by Ian Lambot.

The city was a sort of symbolic “free zone” for the Chinese while Hong Kong belonged to the British. It operated sort of like a completely different country; different laws, different standards of living, etc. An island within an island. New York City now has 26,403 per square mile. Kowloon had 3.2 million. Apparently it was a sort of free-for-all in terms of municipal services: Waste Management = throw your trash out your window. Temples installed screens over their roofs to keep off the trash. (This created some great ambient lighting!) Utilities were stolen via makeshift wiring over and over. When the line was cut, they ran another one. Wires and pipes accumulated, clogging the alleys and cluttering rooftops.

Images below by Greg Girard.



China White Mine

Finally dug this amazing topographical map from the bottom of a box and hung it above the couch.

I think it was my grandfather’s. He was in China during WW2.

Reminds me of terrace farming that I saw in China. Cross-sections of mountains. Geometric descriptions of organic forms.

Dan Hays — Kunming

After a few days of exploring and taking photographs it became clear that my project would be photographic in nature. This was not simply due to the daunting number of interesting scenes that I discovered, impossible to translate into paint in a limited stay. Many of the most exciting images involved layered representations of landscape, from digitally produced advertising imagery to wall painting. I also found numerous ‘landscapes in miniature’, ranging from historic rock gardens of spiritual significance to more recent assemblages of tree and stone facing imminent destruction from encroaching building sites. The passion for these hyper-gardens continues to the present where the road to the airport is lined with giant windmill-flowers, for example. The layering of these depictions of landscape amidst the architecture of the city elusively seemed to reflect traditional Chinese conceptions of landscape. Kunming had the appearance of a living painting, having associations with modernist approaches to landscape, from Cubism to Surrealism. The idea of spending my days shut in the studio painting seemed unnecessary or futile in front of astonishing combinations of landscape representation in two and three dimensions.

See & read more here.

Terrace Farming

Various pics from my travels in China, 2005-6. I was totally obsessed with terraces. They are the ultimate example of a domesticated landscape: organic + geometric; shaped by both ancient geology and recent human activity; layers of cross sections describing a form. They were carved over generations to squeeze out every square foot of farmable land.

These two photos were taken at Long Shan Ti Tian, which means “dragon’s backbone”, in south central China. Supposedly you can see these terrace-carved mountains for as far as the eye can see, but of course I arrived there on a foggy day! I ended up having to stay for 2 nights with a local couple because of a crazy downpour of rain, like a monsoon.

Out the bus window heading to Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan.

Out the bus window in Guizhou.

On top of a Xiao Mao Shan mountain in Sichuan.

Western Sichuan.