February 24, 2007

Weng Fen

Weng Fen is an artist from Hainan Island in China. Many of his projects—'Bird's Eye View', 'On the Wall', 'Staring at the Lake' and so on—feature figures, usually schoolkids, with their backs to the camera staring out over the landscape. To my eye they recall Casper David Friedrich's The Wanderer. It's compelling stuff especially when viewed in multiple. I'd love to see a exhibition of his one day. Anyone know if he's ever been shown in New York?

Weng Fen's personal website (with installation photos)

found via Moca Taipei

Update: Speaking of Freidrich, the Sunday Times today has a nice article on Justine Kurland who admired Friedrich so much that she named her son Casper. Her monumental landscapes with their tiny figures owe something to Friedrich but more to 17th and 18th century European painters who used their tiny naked figures to suggest something of the fecundity of unspoiled nature. I am most compelled by her work that keeps that distance using the smallness of the figures to emphasize the vast scale of the land. When she gets closer to her subjects and they are photographed from a few feet away all the uniqueness of the work falls away and they just become pretty nudes... well at least to my eyes. You can see examples of both types of kurland's images in her current show which runs through April.

posted at 01:23 AM by raul

Filed under: photographers

TAGS: chinese (3) chinese photographers (12) hainan (1) landscape (10) photographer (15)


02/25/07 12:14 AM

The series in which the figures are watching distant cityscapes like the one titled (on the wall) work the best for me because there is a certain tension in them.

02/26/07 01:23 PM

thanks for the link. i enjoyed weng fen's website.

05/08/08 08:44 AM

I went to art school togather with Weng Fen 25 years ago and once shared the same room. I live in Australia and now I am in Beijing for an artist residency program. I would like to meet Weng Fen. Any one could help!

06/17/11 08:41 AM

Hi, Thanks for the positive comments.

I was interested to see your site's the no1 Google image hit for "Weng Fen" because I conceived and managed the project. Thanks for flagging him up - the work's gone around the world in the last few years.

I'm currently writing a chapter on the project and your observation about Friedrich's Wanderer' is apt, Interesting that both seem unsuitably dressed, but with Friedrich it's because there wasn't specialised mountaineering clothing back then, whereas Weng's family have just changed into city clothes to stress they're in a place they don't belong. Herein lies the significant difference. The Wanderer is a solitary Wester male exercising the 'magisterial gaze' and spiritually communing with the Romantic landscape. Whereas in Weng's photo it is an oriental family of outsiders who are gazing at an alien landscape, whose culture they do not understand,. They are out of place in it.

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