Bowei Yang – Soft Thorn

Beneath the obscure boundary of reality and illusion, what always interests me is self-reflection. I attempt to penetrate into a deeper layer of people’s psychic world or, from another perspective, my own.

I was born and raised in a traditional Chinese Christian family in a small town in southern China known for the picturesque Fuchun River. Growing up in a Christian family put me in a dilemma when I became conscious of my ‘different’ sexual orientation. I was compelled to accept psychological treatment from the age of fifteen when I first told my parents the ‘sin’. Now, as a photo-based queer artist, pondering the predicaments of LGBTQI teenagers combined with a sense of nostalgia and Oedipus complex is the main focus of my practice.

With the initial intention to record a journey of nostalgia after the departure from my home, Soft Thorn (2013‐2017) contains candid, staged portraits set against the backdrop of my hometown. Inspired by Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Voyeur, which described the whole fiction in another subtle view instead of the subjective view, it occurred to me that I could accomplish a description of myself and a self-portrait through those directed portraits. As those models are mainly my close queer friends and Christian relatives, I am prone to perform my sentiments and sorrows so as to capture myself in those portraits of people I share intimate relationships. Meanwhile, taking portraits in Soft Thorn, I try to reveal and rebuild the mental world of those people photographed through posing and directing their gestures in an intimate way. I retain the similarity of those portraits while stripping off individual and specific characteristics by directing models. A Dream in Red Mansion, a traditional Chinese fiction, has also impressed me with its fabulous depictions of all sorts of dreams mixed with bittersweet stories and provided me with ideas to structure a dummy-reality dream world. I try to compose a dream, or a stage of illusion, in my work, like the daylight given by the immense hill or a vulnerable butterfly trying to escape from the shadow of dark clouds. I anticipate that viewers can finally reach the deepest ideological layer in my work, where truth and fantasy are buried.

Bowei Yang (Boway Young), born in Hangzhou, China, now travels between Beijing and London. His work documents LGBTQI teenagers living in China and attempts to question their self-identity and awareness.

His work has been exhibited in China, Japan, Russia, United States and more. His work has also been published in Lens Culture, Aint-Bad Magazine, and China Daily amongst others.