Outward Expressions, Inward Reflections: The Launch of the Three Shadows Photography Award

1 March - 13 April 2008

Artists: Adou, Cai Weidong, Lu Yanpeng, Qiu

Curator: Zhang Li


Following "Convection", an exhibition of the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre's permanent collection of Chinese and international works, we welcome "Outward Expressions, Inward Reflections", an annual showcase of the new strengths of contemporary photography in China. We are also pleased to announce the launch of the first annual "Three Shadows Photography Award", a juried competition for young Chinese photographers. The exhibition and award are founded on an independent understanding of contemporary photography, selecting from emerging trends artists that display a spirit of individuality and artistic potential. The exhibition introduces the newest achievements of contemporary Chinese photography to a broad audience and supports emerging artists while promoting the development of contemporary photography in China.


Opening on March 1, 2008, "Outward Expressions, Inward Reflections" featured four young photographers. The appeal of their work comes from each artist's deep understanding of the photographic medium and unique attitude toward contemporary art and social reality. Recent exhibitions and books that feature young photographers have mainly focused on the young generation's different views of the self and urban life. The artists of "Outward Expressions, Inward Reflections", however, have a broader perspective. Their images reveal a distinct artistic interpretation of public space, region, and history.


On the surface, Adou's work appears to depict the life and environment of western China. However, his art is not just ordinary documentary photography. Adou's photographs of the Yi ethnic minority from Da Liang Mountain in western Sichuan province are called "Samalada". In this series, the artist uses black-and-white images to create a visual language that is self-conscious and full of emotion. By presenting rich, innocent landscapes and portraits, Adou places the pastoral into a space conscious of life and history.


Photographer Qiu lives in Guangzhou. In this exhibition, the works displayed are selected from various series within his portfolio. Qiu's images seem innocent and tranquil, but contain minute compositional details. They rely on the artist's conscientious manipulation of certain aspects intrinsic to the photographic medium, as well as a well-founded grasp on the social realities of contemporary China. These two factors play off of each other, making Qiu's works seem like still frames from television that evoke rich, imaginative narratives.


Aside from simply capturing scenes that reflect the inner heart through the lens of the camera, photographers may also use ready-made images or take the initiative to compose scenes before the frame. Cai Weidong's work "Landscape" is composed of manipulated black-and-white images that imitate classic scrolls, undated landscapes, and portraits in order to liberate the subconscious images of the artist and audience. These images, which exist in the space between the virtual and real, flash before the collective historical memory and create a psychological conflict that captures the viewer's attention.

Lu Yanpeng's photographs of shadowy figures are taken outdoors in the dead of night. Through his mastery of expressive light, the long exposure photographs evoke surrealist imagery in which open-air performances of light and shade create charming black-and-white images. Models, clouds, tree leaves, and ponds all find their own place in the extended time of the long exposure.


The four artists of this exhibition all project their inner feelings and attitudes into their photography. Through each artist's unique methodology and language, each photograph reveals a link between the work and the spirit of the photographer, thus becoming a form of first-person expression. Whether this process is from the interior to the exterior or vice versa, a concrete relationship between the individual and world is established. In contemporary China the obvious, rapid changes are only one aspect of reality. We cannot ignore the reality of existence or the feeling of truth in the broader historical worldview. This kind of broad global perspective is far removed from daily urban life. For contemporary city-dwellers, this point of view is a source of important inner reflection.


The opening of this exhibition also marks the initiation of the "Three Shadows Photography Award" juried competition. The first "Three Shadows Photography Award" focuses on the new faces of Chinese contemporary photography and is open to new photographers regardless of age. The call for submissions lasts from March 1 to November 30, 2008. A selection committee comprised of the Three Shadows Advisory Board and specially invited artists will select the finalists, who will then be featured in the Young Photographers Exhibition in the Spring of the following year. The final review process will take place during the exhibition and will honor a Newcomer of the Year Grand Prize Award and multiple Awards of Excellence. The "Three Shadows Photography Award" competition will be held once a year, supplementing the systematic and professional production, publishing, criticism, and curatorial work of the centre.