The term ‘Wilderness Expanses’ plays with another phrase: Wilderness Expenses. For this year’s Sony Grant, artist Yan Wang Preston continued her long-term investigation towards the complexities of nature in modern societies by visiting some gigantic ecology-recovery projects in China. Years of brutal extraction left a broken landscape of jagged peaks and dangerous slopes, which has a visual similarity to iconic natural mountains, such as the Dolomites. The additional monoculture formed by recently planted trees and meadows gives the area a confusing impression: a strange wilderness that appears to be more dead than alive at its current state. Such neo-wilderness inspired Preston to use Black & White photography with the grandeur often portrayed by early landscape photography, when the visualisation of a pristine nature became popular within the general public. With the photographs, the artist asks the question: at what expanses can we re-create a wilderness?
Dr. Yan Wang Preston is a British-Chinese artist interested in the contested definitions of nature in contemporary societies. Her major projects include ‘Mother River’ and ‘Forest’. For 'Mother River' (2010-2014), she photographed the entire 6,211-km Yangtze River at precise 100-km intervals. For 'Forest' (2010-2017), she investigated the politics of reforestation and ecology recovery in new Chinese cities.
Preston’s work has won major international awards such as the Hundred Heroines, the Royal Photographic Society, the 1st Prize, Syngenta Photography Award, and the Shiseido Photographer Prize at the Three Shadows Photography Annual Award in Beijing, China.
Solo exhibitions of Preston’s work has been shown at venues such as the 56th Venice Biennale, Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum, Wuhan Art Museum, Gallery of Photography Ireland and Impressions Gallery in Bradford, UK. Important group shows include Dubai Photo, Syngenta Photography Award exhibition at the Somerset House, London and 209 Women at the Westminster Palace, London.
Preston’s monographs ‘Forest’ and ‘Mother River’ are both published by Hatje Cantz in 2018. She received a PhD in Photography from the University of Plymouth in 2018. Aside of her artistic career, Preston is also a lecturer in photography at the University of Huddersfield, UK.