“Between Blossoms is inspired by my dreams of the unknown and by the mysteries that fascinate me. I find these fantasies hinted at in the reality that surrounds me; a touch of melodrama here, a hint of seduction there, which enhances the everyday with an elusive, enchanting beauty.”
- Shen Wei
In his new photographic series Between Blossoms, New York-based Chinese photographer Shen Wei has taken a meditative journey across continents, from the United States to Europe and Asia. His seductive photographs capture a unifying sense of other-worldliness within the changing landscape, generating an abstracted sensation of place that he describes as “deeply connected to my inner melancholy, a dream-like state of mind.”
The images in Between Blossoms possess an inner stillness and tranquility, binding the influence of traditional themes of Chinese art, drawn from the natural environment, with the ancient Chinese philosophy of Qi - a powerful unseen life force within all natural phenomena. Shen Wei’s attention to the interactions of darkness and light, and negative or void spaces gives these hidden forces tangible form, drawing from the philosophical treatment of emptiness as solid space often found in Chinese painting. This can be seen in the near pitch-black void within Peach Tree, from which a lush, flower-studded tree emerges, and the dynamic energy within the central light-filled cavity in Monkey. The interplay of positive and negative elements also articulates oppositional emotional states of fear, attraction, joy, loneliness and absence.
Shen Wei’s immersion in the landscape during his travels has led to a focus on vegetal subject matter, with trees acting as a thread interwoven throughout the series. In Chinese culture, each tree has a symbolic meaning (Shen Wei notes that the peach tree represents seduction and love), corresponding with Wei’s own instinctive evocation of feeling in nature, which he has characterized as “both specific and spontaneous”. Shen Wei’s method of image-making involves extended periods of waiting for the perfect light or sense of movement (for instance the glowing morning light in House Frame), the meditative process itself becoming a crucial component of the work.
The nude self-portraits in Between Blossoms add a reflexive dimension, evoking inner moods or sentiments, with less emphasis on the physical body than in the past. While previous series’ (such as I Miss You Already) have explored notions of intimacy, desire, and identity through the human form, recent images such as Searching reflect on the subconscious relationship between the body and its environment, with harmoniously balanced compositions that both cloak and reveal the figure, invoking a mystical state or ghost-like presence.