“But a dream botany has not yet been created.” Gaston Bachelard in L’Air et les Songes
“Our belonging to the world of images is stronger and more constitutive of our being than our belonging to the world of ideas.” Gaston Bachelard in Le Dormeur evéillé
Born in 1982 in Jinzhou in Liaoning Province, Yan Heng studied within the Oil Painting Department at the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts in China. He currently lives and works in Beijing.
Inaugurating the artist’s first personal exhibition in the West, “La Botanique du rêve” presents different series of works with oil on canvas – the artist’s medium of expression – to which he combines three dimensional objects and incorporates into installations.
The paintings of Yan Heng are figurative and narrative, products of his own experiences as well as the collective metaphors of contemporary Chinese society. His representations of the body and his introspective approach are illustrative of a new pictorial tendency within Chinese art.
The work of Yan Heng derives its sources from daily life. He takes lived reality as his starting point, transforming it and pushing it toward a surreality which evades direct readings. Incorporating into his work objects of fantasy and appropriation, he takes ideological and social emblems from China during the second half of the 20th century (a car reserved for political dignitaries, a sculpture of Lenin) and merges them with symbols and icons of the new consumer society (a washing machine, a computer keyboard and monitor, an image of Michael Jackson).
Based on a process of dissection, examining constructed beliefs of society and representations of the body and of the landscape, he produces an incisive and evocative portrait of the day-to-day life of his generation which balances between affectionate irony and profound unease.
The universe which he creates is of two different worlds, resting on the border between nature and culture, the human and the monstrous, the beautiful and the rejected, reality and dream. Classical methods of interpretation become blurred; and behind a representation of the world which is classical, nearly academic in its craftsmanship, there emerges, progressively, a chaotic universe, strange and perplexingly enigmatic.
The rationalism which is actively present within many of his works via the evocation of science or scholarly and academic knowledge dissolves when confronted by a powerful imagination which grafts absurd images to the gaps of meaning they produce. Within an urban setting overgrown with vegetation, a muzzled crocodile wanders behind the carcasses of washing machines and computing devices. Emerging within another scenario, the same animal crawls amongst a blackboard scrawled with scientific writings, a baby carriage enveloped in fire, an overturned umbrella, and a washing machine resting in perfect condition, ready to be used. Science and reason, as tools for understanding, world-mastery, or elucidating reality, are rendered useless by the emergence of dream and fiction.
Intertwining the lived, personal experiences of the artist with his observations of the society of his contemporaries, arising from both individual and collective memory, his work resembles a dreamlike exploration, an animated and unfinished dialogue between reason and the thoughts of poetic imagination.
“Faced with the exterior universe on one side and the subconscious ocean inside on the other, he is constantly breaking rules within his paintings, working to unify corporeal experience with the metaphysical, and then working to analyze and understand the unknown world part by part.” Gu Zhenqing in “Yan Heng: Body’s responses to the body”