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Egongyan Park, Chongqing, China, 2017, from the series Forest, 2010-17

Photograph
2010-2017
Artist/Maker

Yan Wang Preston is a British-Chinese artist. Born in Henan Province, China, Preston originally qualified as an anaesthetist before emigrating to the UK and gaining a PhD in Photography at the University of Plymouth. Preston’s practice is characterised by ambitious concepts and a deep respect for the environment. Influenced by the straightforward approach of new topographic photographers, like Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz and Stephen Shore, she is known for a stark, formal beauty in her photographs and nuanced environmental subject matter.  

 Whilst at Plymouth, Preston began Mother River (2010-2014), an astonishing long-term photography project that follows the Yangtze, China’s Mother River. Using a large format-plate camera, Preston photographed the entire 6,211km river at precise 100m intervals. The result is a multi-layered, vernacular view of contemporary China that offers a radical departure from traditional representations of Chinese landscape and demonstrates Preston’s rigorous approach to making work.  

  This photograph is from Preston’s subsequent series Forest, a sequence of sixty-five images which explore the complexities, hopes and failures of constructed urban nature in China. Begun in 2010, the project delves into the practice of uprooting mature trees and replanting them across the country’s new cities. In China, trees transplanted in this way are often hundreds of years old and are moved mainly for commercial reasons – to ‘make green’ new cityscapes built for migrant labour, or to add a sense of history and gravitas to hotels and other commercial spaces. However, when trees are transplanted, they are also removed from their natural environmental conditions, meaning specialist care is required to help them survive in unfamiliar climates or habitats. By documenting the developments of the transplanted trees in their new homes, as well as the recovering landscapes left behind, the Forest project raises urgent questions about migration and urbanisation, as well as our relationship with the natural world.  


This photograph was made in Chongqing, China’s largest metropolis with a growing population of thirty million people. In 2008, Chongqing adopted the policy of building a ‘forest city’, leading to an intense period of uprooting and planting hundreds of thousands of trees. As with the other images from Forest, Preston masterfully plays with the contrasts between nature and the surrounding urban architecture in cool colour combinations of grey and green. Shot under an elevated motorway, the meticulously choreographed, assembled trees provide wonder and relief from a scene otherwise dominated by gigantic structures of concrete and steel. Preston used a large-format field camera for the project, not unlike those used by nineteenth-century explorers. Although cumbersome and complicated to use on location, the camera produces large negatives with astonishing resolution and detail.  


Object details

Categories
Object type
TitleEgongyan Park, Chongqing, China, 2017, from the series Forest, 2010-17 (assigned by artist)
Materials and techniques
C-type print
Brief description
One photograph by Yan Wang Preston titled 'Egongyan Park, Chongqing, China, 2017', from the series 'Forest' (2010-2017).
Physical description
Photograph
Dimensions
  • Height: 120cm
  • Width: 150cm
Credit line
Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group
Subject depicted
Place depicted
Summary
Yan Wang Preston is a British-Chinese artist. Born in Henan Province, China, Preston originally qualified as an anaesthetist before emigrating to the UK and gaining a PhD in Photography at the University of Plymouth. Preston’s practice is characterised by ambitious concepts and a deep respect for the environment. Influenced by the straightforward approach of new topographic photographers, like Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz and Stephen Shore, she is known for a stark, formal beauty in her photographs and nuanced environmental subject matter.  

 Whilst at Plymouth, Preston began Mother River (2010-2014), an astonishing long-term photography project that follows the Yangtze, China’s Mother River. Using a large format-plate camera, Preston photographed the entire 6,211km river at precise 100m intervals. The result is a multi-layered, vernacular view of contemporary China that offers a radical departure from traditional representations of Chinese landscape and demonstrates Preston’s rigorous approach to making work.  

  This photograph is from Preston’s subsequent series Forest, a sequence of sixty-five images which explore the complexities, hopes and failures of constructed urban nature in China. Begun in 2010, the project delves into the practice of uprooting mature trees and replanting them across the country’s new cities. In China, trees transplanted in this way are often hundreds of years old and are moved mainly for commercial reasons – to ‘make green’ new cityscapes built for migrant labour, or to add a sense of history and gravitas to hotels and other commercial spaces. However, when trees are transplanted, they are also removed from their natural environmental conditions, meaning specialist care is required to help them survive in unfamiliar climates or habitats. By documenting the developments of the transplanted trees in their new homes, as well as the recovering landscapes left behind, the Forest project raises urgent questions about migration and urbanisation, as well as our relationship with the natural world.  


This photograph was made in Chongqing, China’s largest metropolis with a growing population of thirty million people. In 2008, Chongqing adopted the policy of building a ‘forest city’, leading to an intense period of uprooting and planting hundreds of thousands of trees. As with the other images from Forest, Preston masterfully plays with the contrasts between nature and the surrounding urban architecture in cool colour combinations of grey and green. Shot under an elevated motorway, the meticulously choreographed, assembled trees provide wonder and relief from a scene otherwise dominated by gigantic structures of concrete and steel. Preston used a large-format field camera for the project, not unlike those used by nineteenth-century explorers. Although cumbersome and complicated to use on location, the camera produces large negatives with astonishing resolution and detail.  
Collection
Accession number
PH.247-2023

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Record createdFebruary 10, 2023
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