Meditative Processes

New York-based Chinese photographer Shen Wei sets out on a journey across continents in the new series entitled Between Blossoms, which makes its public debut at Flowers Gallery, New York. It is the latest addition to a body of work that is unified by a particular dream-like, other-worldly atmosphere which the artist describes as connected to an inner sense of melancholy.

The images in Between Blossoms, created during his travels in America, Europe and Asia, possess an inner stillness and tranquility, binding the influence of traditional themes of Chinese art, drawn from the natural environment, with the ancient concept of Qi – a powerful unseen life force inherent within all natural phenomena. The theme of Qi was the subject of the previous series Invisible Atlas, a personal visual interpretation of energy forms surrounding objects and bodies.

Shen Wei’s immersion in the landscape during his recent journeys has led to a focus on vegetation as a subject, with trees acting as a thematic thread. In Chinese culture, each tree has a symbolic meaning (the peach tree represents seduction and love). The method involves extended periods of waiting for the perfect light or sense of movement (for instance the glowing morning light in House Frame), this meditative process becoming a crucial component.

His attention to the interactions of darkness and light, and negative or void spaces gives these hidden forces tangible form, drawing from a concept of emptiness as solid space that is often found in Chinese painting. This can be seen in the near pitch-black void within Peach Tree, from which a lush, flower-studded tree emerges, and the dynamic energy within the central light-filled cavity in Monkey. The interplay of positive and negative elements also suggests oppositional emotional states.

Past series include I Miss You Already (2009) created during a Rockefeller Foundation residency in Italy. The artist appears nude or semi-nude in a sequence of self-portraits shot to evoke a strange, fairytale-like ambience, a self-reflective process of discovery which explores the tensions between freedom and boundaries.

Shen Wei: Between Blossoms is at Flowers Gallery, New York,  2 March – 22 April.

1. Shen Wei, Table for Two (2016). Courtesy of Flowers Gallery.