3 young Chinese artists awarded prizes at inaugural Caochangdi PhotoSpring

PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL BEIJING AWARDS

As part of the launch of the first annual Caochangdi PhotoSpring festival, held in Beijing, China, from 17 April to 30 June this year, three young Chinese artists were awarded a prize for their outstanding work in photography. The three award winners were selected out of 20 semi-finalists who in turn had been chosen from over 200 submissions from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other parts of the world.

International panel of experts awards photography prize

A panel of international photography experts including Eva Respini (Associate Curator, Photography Department, Museum of Modern Art, USA), François Hébel (Director of Les Recontres d’Arles, France), Karen Smith (Photography Critic and Curator, UK), Kotaro Iizawa (Photography Critic, Japan), and RongRong (co-founder of the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, China) made up the members of the jury and selected the recipient of the Three Shadows Photography Award 2010.

The festival was directed by well-known artist couple RongRong & inri, founders of Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, together with Berenice Angremy. The director of Les Rencontres d’Arles, François Hébel, acted as guest curator. According to the event’s website, the award aims to support and encourage new talent and give them greater exposure both locally and internationally.

This year’s 3 winners

The winner of the third annual Three Shadows Photography Award and the 80,000 RMB cash prize was 28 year old Shandong province native, Zhang Xiao. In his They Series of 2009 he deals with ordinary people who, because of their jobs, are often relegated to the fringes of society. The artist describes his work: “In real life, they are a group of very ordinary people, with their own lives and careers, but in these photographs, they seem strange and absurd, and very unreal. Behind this ostentatious city there is always grief and tears, indifference and cruelty. I met them by chance and I longed to understand each of their lives and experiences. Perhaps our daily lives are all absurd. I long to understand the meaning of our existence.”

Zhang Xiao, They Series No.01, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Zhang Xiao, They Series No.01, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Winner of this year’s Shiseido Prize and a 20,000 RMB cash prize was Wang Huan. Born in Shandong Province in 1989, her Alley Scrawl Series (2009) of black and white images was taken of the people, animals and places of the small town of Zhuantang, near Hangzhou. The artist was drawn to recording the lives of its “simple, decent” inhabitants. “It was this simplicity that… made me want to record their lives and engage in this narration about life’s vicissitudes” says the artist.

Wang Huan, Alley Scrawl series No. 2, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Wang Huan, Alley Scrawl series No. 2, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

The haunting black and white works of the winner of The Tierney Fellowship a and 5,000 USD cash prize, Huang Xiaoliang, deal with memory and a yearning for a better future. The Hunan Province-born artist (1985) presented his An Expectation or a New Miracle Series (2008-2009), with its shadows and dream-like images drawn from the artist’s memory. The artist states, “Many things from my memory appear in these works; these things are from scenes that I remember.”

Huang Xiaoliang. An Expectation or a New Miracle Series No. 15 2008-2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Huang Xiaoliang. An Expectation or a New Miracle Series No. 15 2008-2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Caochangdi PhotoSpring and Arles in Beijing

The photo festival was held at one of Beijing’s top art districts, Caochangdi. Caochangdi PhotoSpring partnered with 40 year old French photography festival Les Rencontres d’Arles. This is the first time that the Arles’ exhibitions have been shown outside of France.

Caochangdi PhotoSpring offered a myriad of exhibitions from 27 participant galleries featuring both Chinese and international artists. The festival also featured slide shows and discussions, documentary film screenings, book launches and even musical concerts. Some exhibitions and activities run into the month of July.

The main hub of activity, including the venue for the opening ceremony and the announcement of the festival winners, was at the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre. This centre, which was opened in 2007, focuses solely on photography and video art. The Centre was designed by Chinese artist/architect Ai Weiwei.

Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

The courtyard of the Ai Weiwei designed Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing, China. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

The semi-finalists: 20 young and upcoming Chinese artists

The semi-finalists, whose work was showcased at the Three Shadows Photography Centre Galleries, are: Chen Ji’nan, Feng Li, He Yue, Huang Xiaoliang, Li Chunjun, Li Liangxin, Li Yong, Liao Wei, Liu Jia, Liu KeMu Ge, Qi Hong, Song Xiaodi, Tian Lin, Wang Huan, Xiao Ribao, Xue Wei, Zeng Han, Zhang Jie, and Zhang Xiao.

Tibetan-born artist Qi Hong submitted hand-painted black and white images of the three gorges damn 15 years after they were taken with the intent “to gradually develop the landscape and life of the Three Gorges that I remember.” His images depict the inhabitants going about their activities of daily life such as boatmen pulling a boat against the current, or mountain inhabitants moving a house.

Qi Hong. Backpacker in the Ra, Three Gorges series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Qi Hong, Backpacker in the Ra, Three Gorges series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

With regards to his Stone City Series 2009, He Yue states, “Cities are created by piling things up and such is the case with life and thoughts.” For example, in Moth (2009) we admire the beautiful pattern on the wings of a moth only to realize that it is resting on a toilet seat. Or in Electric cables (2009) we can still find beauty in the pink hued cloud that is hovering in the blue sky, even if this view is intersected by electric cables.

He Yue. Dove, 2009. City series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

He Yue, Dove, 2009, City series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Li Yong presented his Daily Series 2006-2009 in which he documents the effects of rapid economic development in China and its often harmful impact on the environment. One of his photographs depicts a man fishing in a pond that has a partly submerged building in it without any concern as to how this might affect the toxicity of the fish he will later consume. Another depicts a man calmly sitting in the water surrounded by submerged buildings and trees heedless of its possible effect on his health. The artist states, “The people in these photographs are like me in the sense that we cannot change this environment; we can only indifferently accept it and calmly live in it.”

Li Yong. Fishing, 2008. Daily series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Li Yong, Fishing, 2008, Daily series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Song Xiaodi has no formal training but managed to capture the attention of the judges and the public with her images of fish and flowers in ultra-bright colours.

Song Xiaodi. Light Series, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Song Xiaodi, Light Series, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Haunting images of China’s Xinjiang region were taken between 2005-2009 by Tian Lin, her series, Children of Yamalike Mountain, depicts the inhabitants of the main shanty town in this region, known as the “slum of Urumqi.” These children, from migrant families, play and live in this dusty rubble with a sprawling modern city as their distant backdrop. According to the artist, tens of thousands of migrant workers from different ethnic backgrounds, such as Uighur, Hui, Han and Kyrghiz live here but with no legal papers or standing.

Tian Lin. From the series Children of Yamalike Mountain, (2005-2009). Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Tian Lin, from the series Children of Yamalike Mountain, (2005-2009). Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Taiwanese artist Xue Wei used a scanner to construct full-size images of her body. She had to scan her body section by section between 18 and 24 times to reach her desired effect.

Xue Wei. Self-Portrait - Side, 2005. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Xue Wei. Self-Portrait - Side, 2005. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

For more information about the festival visit the website.

Watch for part two of Art Radar Asia’s coverage of Caochangdi PhotoSpring which will highlight a number of exhibitions including some from the Arles program.

Read part two here: Beijing first to host Arles program outside France

NA/KN

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