The New-York based Chinese artist Shen Wei is holding his first major UK exhibition at the Flowers Gallery in Hoxton.
Born and raised in Shanghai, China, Shen is a visual artist and performer internationally renowned having exhibited in prestigious institutions like the MOMA in New-York.
His UK show features photographs and videos work from several series from 2009 to the present day.
It draws together elements of three of his previous series including his latest, ‘Broken Sleeve’. The title is named after a popular Chinese story about an emperor who cuts off his sleeve rather than wake his lover.
Shen’s inspiration for the project could be defined as a slightly stereotypical representation of China in pop culture – an Emperor, a Chinese Opera singer and a Shanghai 1930s gangster for example.
Responding to his conservative upbringing in Shanghai, Shen’s self-portraits, nudes and sensuous landscape photographs explore notions of identity and sensuality. His work reflects the influence of Chinese culture and his own personal process of discovery.
Also in the exhibition are works from ‘Between Blossoms’ a series of nude self-portraits and landscapes captured across the United States, Europe and Asia. The photographs capture a sense other-worldliness within the changing landscape that Shen describes as “deeply connected to my inner melancholy”.
In this photograph, Shen is disguised as an emperor wearing a lavish silk outfit and sitting on his throne against a traditional background with a ball placed in his mouth. This picture reflects a contrast between the power of his Imperial status and the submission to the gag he’s wearing.
“My work is not about nudity but the idea of being free mentally,” Shen Wei said about this photograph to The Guardian.
“I was wandering with a friend around south-east China small villages when we found an empty theatre with two raised stage. Chairs were stacked on one and the other was this set: two chairs and a table, draped in red fabric. I instantly knew I had to take a photograph,” he says.
The show also includes two performance videos, one of which has him blowing saliva bubbles exploring the intense effects of bodily experience.
Shen’s exhibition is showing at Flowers Gallery, 82 Kingsland Road, London until June 22.