Miami Biennale
Yao Lu

Art Works
Yao Lu From the series New Landscape, part IV
Angling on Low Island, 2008 C-Type print; 70 7/8 x 32 1/4 inches
From Beyond the Erotic: Invention of Place

Yao Lu From the series New Landscape, part IV
Green Cliffhanger, 2008 C-Type print; 70 7/8 x 32 1/4 inches
From Beyond the Erotic: Invention of Place

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Yao Lu (born 1967) Beijing, China. Resides in Beijing, China. Yao Lu has won the 2008 BMW - Paris Photo Prize for contemporary photography. The award was announced at Paris Photo, which launched at the Carrousel du Louvre, in Paris.Represented by 798 Photo Gallery in Beijing, Yao Lu is the fifth winner of this major international award, after Czech artist Jitka Hanzlova in 2007, French artist Mathieu Bernard-Reymond in 2006, American artist Anthony Goicolea in 2005 and the Switzerland's Jules Spinatsch in 2004.

The winning work "Yao Lu's landscape part I – Ancient Spring Time Fey, 2006" is part of a series of digitally manipulated images of landscapes. The artist photographs mounds of garbage covered in green protective nets which he assembles and reworks by computer to create bucolic images of mountain landscapes shrouded in the mist inspired by traditional Chinese paintings. Lying somewhere between painting and photography, between the past and the present, Yao Lu's work speaks of the radical mutations affecting nature in China as is it subjected to rampant urbanization and the ecological threats that endanger the environment. The theme for BMW's 2008 photo prize was "Never Stand Still" in relation with the new BMW 7 Series.

Yao Lu is an emerging Chinese artist and teacher at the photography department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. His work has been shown in numerous festivals and collective exhibitions around China (Lianzhou International Photo Festival 2007, New China Occidentalism – China Contemporary Art in Beijing in 2006, Pingyao International Photography Festival in 2004). But his work has rarely been shown in the West, except at the Fotofest International Houston in 2008, and at the "Space and Transportation" exhibition in Graz, Austria, in 1997.

Concealment Is the Essence of Reality
-Yaolu's New Landscape

By Gu Zheng

The great changes that happened to contemporary China has endowed Chinese artists with new excitements that spur their artistic sense. The Changes themselves have also brought them with new materials. Yao Lu's photography ingeniously found a material that belongs only to himself from which he began with his reconstruction of contemporary China's landscape.

With the superb digital technique, Yao Lu's series of "Chinese Landscapes" takes as material piles of green (occasionally black) dustproof cloth-covered construction materials (or garbage) that can be seen everywhere in today's Beijing on which he adds pavilions and towers, making landscape paintings that seem to be carefully worked out. But with careful observation, you will find modern peasant workers with safety helmets walking between the mountains and waters, protruding a sudden disharmony of time and space. According to common imagination and culture, those who walk between the mountains and waters should be scholar officials, fishermen, and woodcutters, but in the picture, it is the workers wearing safety helmets who step into the landscape, breaking dreams and imagination. So this poetic picture comes from modern construction, and indicates the reality full of construction. Yao Lu keenly caught the symbol of contemporary China: dustproof cloth. Through his clever application, we finally have to accept such a truth: the green dustproof cloth for covering ugliness and preventing dust and theft and the mounds they form have become a new symbol of contemporary China.

In this country where development is still its major focus, green dustproof cloth is a sign of "under construction". If a city does not have such green hills and piles covered by dustproof cloth, it may look unfamiliar, unnatural, unconfident, and unsafe, as it may indicate that the city lacks vigor, and is not favored by capital and power. In short, the undeveloped city has not entered modernization process, or in other words, it has no future. Safety is also linked with development. No development means being deserted and lagged behind. Therefore, the landscape formed by green dustproof cloth implies a city's fate, and becomes the city's new symbol. Moreover, the landscape is always in a dynamic process in which green stacks keep appearing and disappearing; or, like garbage, keep coming and being carried away; or, like construction materials, keep being moved away and in.

However, in Yao Lu's pictures, nothing is so direct and obvious as described above. The pictures show the concealed and the unconcealeble by greenness, and the tension formed by them. This tension between concealment and exposure seems to be exactly China's present reality. The hills in the pictures are covered by this greenness while gaps appear everywhere, implying the unrevealability of reality. Uncovering the greenness means uncovering reality. The pictures unavoidably lead us to ponder that under the world's pretty surface, reality, or materials of reality, should be so ugly. The alliance between imagination and reality resolves right at the moment of exposure. We probably will gain the revelation that concealment is the essence of reality. Reality itself will have no charm without concealment, and life will also lose imagination. This inspiration is indicated by Yao Lu¡¯s beauty full of breaks. The greenness looks so grudging with unexpected items piercing the false and hypocritical beauty of the mountains and waters in the pictures. The earth underneath always tries to break the dictation of the greenness and tear and destroy the green harmony on the surface. The whole picture looks harmonious from far while when observed from near, it presents inadequacy, the needy and poor inside, and the concealment that is an intrinsic necessity. It is also from here that people find that concealment has also become a necessary method. No, concealment itself is already our reality. Doesn't it allude to the true situation we are now in?

However, Yao Lu's opinion was expressed in an aesthetic way. His works create an illusion of beauty with ugliness. By transferring ugliness to an aesthetic target, the former provides the gun powder for possible criticism and reflection of beauty itself while becoming a new aesthetic target. He looks for a new aesthetic world from ugliness itself.

Those who know something about Chinese art history may quickly find that Yao Lu's works draw the style of Song Dynasty's fine art. Drawing other factors is a common method in contemporary Chinese art. Indeed, the beautiful paintings of the Song Dynasty still bring inspiration to artists today and attract their dialogues. Drawing its style is one type of the dialogues. But Yao's drawing is not a rigid, formal, therefore machenical application; instead, it is a clever performance. He talks with tradition, but aims at the present. He expects us to see his opinion about reality through his works.

Taking an extrarealistic position, his drawing transfers real items to aesthetic targets and finds aesthetic possibilities from them. At the same time, it is a postmodern drawing, which means that it activates tradition, attaches tradition with new possible opening, and presents a personal evaluation of the present. All these purposes are collected by Yao Lu in a perfect classical form, photoshoping reality and creating a new landscape. If it were simply a formal drawing, it would not have encouraged and inserted energy into the classical and modern practice.

Of course, Yao Lu's drawing activates tradition, but more importantly, it activates reality and the knowledge and imagination of reality. His talks with tradition do not stop at evaluating it with his own practice, but establish a new relationship with reality by the dialogues. Its meaning lies in finding that the possibility of reconnecting with reality lies in tradition. For what modern art draws other factors? It is fine to play or even juggle with tradition, but how to bring about and set a link with reality through tradition? That is what Yao Lu's practice inspires us to think about. His practice also shows that drawing is not a photographical game that lingers on the surface; instead, it is a process through which people search for a sharper weapon to dig into reality and the back of surface, and reach for a wider freedom of self-expression.


  • 1998-2000 Master of Arts Visual Art (photography), Queensland College of Arts, Griffith University,Brisbane,Australia
  • 1987-1991 Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing


  • GSK Contemporary Earth: Art of a changing world, ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS 6 BURLINGTON GARDENS, London
  • SPECTACLE AND GAZE, Exhibition of Contemporary Photography in China,
    Museum of Central Academy of Fine Arts ,Beijing, China
  • PARIS PHOTO, Paris France
  • Open Vision-Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Art
  • Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art of the National Gallery Prague Czech
  • GETXOPHOTO Festival, Bilbao, Spain
  • Chinese Gardens for Living, BRUSSELS MEETING CENTRE BELGIUM
  • PARIS PHOTO, Paris, France
  • THEN & NOW, Memories of the Future 2008, Daegu Photo Biennale, Daegu, Korea
  • THE POST-Modern Mode of Chinese Contemporary Art, Shenzhen, China
  • BLIGHT and HOPE, Seoul-London Koica-British
  • CHINESE GARDENS FOR LIVING, Pillnitz, Dresden Germany
  • CONCEALMENT AND RESTRUCTURING, Yaolu's New Mountains and Waters
  • 798 Art Gallery Beijing, China
  • MADE IN CHINA Fotofastiwal 2008 ,Lodz, Poland
  • SIGHTSEEING, A9 Art Gallery Beijing, China
  • GLORY AND RECORDS 567 Art Exhibition, Beijing-Berlin-Paris-Belgium
  • YESTERDAY Picture Exhibition£¬SuoLuo Gallery Beijing, China
  • ABERRANCE OF CHINESE CHARACTER,Chinese Base Beijing, China
  • NEW CHINESE OCCIDENTALISM-China Contemporary Art in Beijing, Beijing, China
  • CHINA ART TODAY, China National Museum of Fine Arts ,Beijing , China
  • THE POST FACT Images of YaoLu&WangChuan, New Beijing Art Gallery Beijing China
  • THESE-Images of YAOLU, Pingyao, China
  • YAOLU winner of the 2008 BMW-Paris Photo Prize for contemporary Photography
  • Shortlisted for the Prix Pictet 2009 for "CONCEALMENT AND RESTRUCTURING Yao Lu's New Mountain and Water series