Koan.  Photographs by Xiaoyi Chen.
Koan.  booktease preview.


Photographs by Xiaoyi Chen.
Jiazazhi Press, Ningbo, China, 2017. In English and Chinese. 44 pp., black-and-white illustrations, 3½x10¼".

Signed copies available!
Publisher's Description

Edition of 500 copies.

Koan is the possibility to open up the territory of the pre-verbal.

As human beings, our reality is based on a symbolic matrix, so all possibilities of our thoughts and wisdom are covered and limited by a signifying chain. Only vision, as a product of the non-material, is closer to a concept of purity. So through photography as my own philosophical approach, I try to explore beneath the surface of things by simplification and abstraction to awaken spiritual awareness and intuition before the symbolic.

As Eastern philosophies, Tao and Zen always advise people to stay absolutely quiet and purify thought processes. In order to achieve this goal, our attention should focus on the most basic form of the universe’s existence. In Zen Buddhism, Koan is a story or riddle used to help in the attainment of a state of spontaneous reaction, free from planning and analytical thought. In contradiction to Western philosophy, Koans emphasize the inadequacy of language and words, and the importance of intuition over reason and logic, to transform the self.

I named the series Koan, and selected abstract landscape photographs to do a photo-etching process; the results of this craft are poetic and full of imaginations. Also only uses black ink and print on different Japanese papers, the color derives from the atmosphere of desolation and melancholy and the expression of minimalism in ancient Chinese poetry and monochromatic ink painting.


About Xiaoyi Chen

Xiaoyi Chen was born in Sichuan, China in 1992. She received an MA in Photography from London College of Communication in 2014, and currently lives and works in Chengdu. Chen’s practice is tied to a natural, oriental aesthetic, influenced by Western abstract art and oriental philosophy. Her recent work focuses on the combination of photography and printmaking, a combination of techniques used to explore beneath the surface of things by simplifying and abstracting; an approach aimed at reviving spiritual awareness and intuition before entering the symbolic nature of what we view. Xiaoyi Chen has exhibited internationally; she was awarded the Three Shadows Photography Award in 2015, China’s most prestigious photography prize, and named one of Asia’s 30 Artists under 30 by Forbes magazine 2017.

Her recent awards and exhibitions include the participation in the Format International Photography Festival, Kassel Photobook Festival, Athens Photo Festival (Benaki Museum) and the group show China 8 at Museum Folkwang (Essen, Germany). Recent art fairs, include Photo Shanghai and Paris Asian Art Fair in 2016, and a solo project at the London Art Fair 2017.

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