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(All images copyright Yao Lu, courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, NY)

SAN FRANCISCO — Pollution and health have been on the Chinese mind as of late. From dead pigs in Shanghai to tips for avoiding bad air in Beijing, a clean environment can be difficult to find. Smog and water pollution have become a feature of China’s urban landscape, creating a hazard not just for Chinese citizens but people all over the world.

Traditional Chinese ink paintings are often known as shanshui, or mountain and water. Unfortunately, much of China’s water is no longer drinkable, and its mountains are difficult to find behind the smog. It’s a topic ripe for creative exploration.

I recently stumbled upon the work of Yao Lu on PSFK. As I clicked past, I was surprised to see the design blog featuring such a traditional landscape. But as I looked closer, I noticed that what was supposed to be an ink painting was actually a photograph. Yao carefully adjusted the image on Photoshop to create the semblance of a shanshui painting, down to little details like a red chop for the artist’s signature.

In a statement online, Yao described his project, dubbed New Mountain and Water:

Today, China is developing dramatically and many things are under constant construction. Many things have disappeared and continue to disappear. The rubbish dumps covered with the ‘shield’, a green netting, are a ubiquitous phenomenon in China.

What’s most striking about the work is the way it twists China’s idyllic scenes into a comment on the contemporary landscape. There’s a haunting beauty to these mountains of trash, and if the world would rather forget its dumpsters, maybe art can compel us to look at them again.

Yao Lu, “Mountain Trek” (2009)

Yao Lu, “Mountain and Straw Houses in the Summer” (2008)

Yao Lu, “Autumn Mist in the Mountain with Winding Streams” (2007)

Yao Lu, “View of the Autumn Mountains in the Distance” (2008)

Yao Lu, “Early Spring on Lake Dong Ting” (2008)

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An Xiao

Artist An Xiao (aka An Xiao Mina) photographs, films, installs, performs and tweets and has shown her work in publications and galleries internationally. Find her online at @anxiaostudio...

3 replies on “Mountains and Oceans of Trash”

  1. Conceptually strong, aesthetically powerful. Thanks for covering this artist. These are the kind of discoveries I look for.

  2. Its crazy to think how these anceient artists were able to predict how the landscape would look so far in the future. Eastern cultures just blows our away.

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