“A major theme of my works is power. We live within a discourse of power; this is inescapable. We both long for power and resist it. This contradiction is in all of us.”

Born 1963, Xi’an, Shaanxi. Lives and works in Beijing

Feng Yan is devoted to what he calls “the power of rational arrangement”. His images have the kind of ordered simplicity found in the stone gardens of Zen monasteries. He leapt to critical notice in 2005 with a series called Order, and followed it with another titled Rockery. A renowned photographer who has also worked as a cinematographer with director Zhang Yimou, Feng immersed himself in the physical and spiritual dimensions of the landscape – his close focus reveals every fissure and crevice of these ancient rock forms of the Zhongnan Moutnains. In Power (2006) he summed up the dictatorship of Mao Zedong in three tight close-ups of one of the Chairman’s black limousines. The locked trunk, the gleaming hubcap and bumper bar convey the insular perfection of the tyrant’s world—and the two bullet-holes in the opaque window its ultimate vulnerability. Modern as his medium is, Feng Yan regularly invokes the traditional artistic trio of stone, pine and bamboo. Psychedelic Bamboo (2009) implicitly likens close-packed neon tubes to an ancient symbol of sober simplicity and uprightness. The critic Michael J. Hatch observes that Feng Yan’s orderly minimalism and subtle use of light “remind us to examine the details in the world around us with greater care”.

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