27 April 2020

The Other as a Mirror of Self Representation

27 April 2020 - Written by PhMuseum

Chinese artist Bowei Yang photographs his friends and relatives to propose a reinterpretation of the deepest mental layer of their, and his own, queer identity.

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

I was born and raised in a traditional Chinese Christian family in a small town where a reputation is shared for its picturesque Fuchun River in southern China. Growing up in a Christian family put me in a kind of dilemma when I was conscious of my “different” sexual orientation. Thus, I was compelled to accept psychological treatment since fifteen when I first told my parents the “sin”. Whereas, for a photo-based queer artist, pondering the young queers’ predicaments combined with a sense of nostalgia and Oedipus complex became the main collision in my practice.

Soft Thorn, with the initial intention to record a journey of nostalgia after the departure from my home, contains candid, staged portraits and moments in the backdrop of my hometown. Inspired by 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 selfie through those directed portraits. As those models are mainly my close queer friends and Christian relatives, by what I mean, I am prone to perform my sentiments and sorrows so as to capture myself in those portraits of people I share intimacy relationships.

Meanwhile, taking portraits in Soft Thorn as an example, I try to reveal and rebuilt the mental world of those people photographed through posing and directing their gestures in an intimate way. I persist 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 depiction of all sorts of dreams mixed with bittersweet stories which provide me with ideas to structure dummy reality dream world, and I try to compose a dream, or a stage of illusion, through my artworks, 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 where truth and fantasy are buried in my works.

Words and Pictures by Bowei Yang.


Boway Young (Bowei Yang) is a photographer based between Beijing and London. By mainly focusing on photographing the Chinese teenage queer group, his work documents the contemporary teenage queers living in China combined with staged memories of his childhood, and he also tries to query the self-identity in the awareness of diverse group identifications. Find him on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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