Yuan Fang. Dangerous Waters

30 May 2024 – 12 Jul 2024

Regular hours

10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

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London, United Kingdom

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Skarstedt is delighted to announce Dangerous Waters, Yuan Fang's first solo exhibition with the gallery and the artist's debut in London.


The exhibition showcases twelve new paintings marked by their monumental scale, cascading cyclical forms and deep, redolent colour palette.

The paintings on display illustrate Fang's cerebral exploration of water as both a spatial barrier and a representation of women, providing an intimate insight into the artist's world. Choosing the exhibition title for its personal resonance, Fang explains that it is about both the 'external and internal', alluding to the danger presented to us and that we present to society.

After moving to New York City at the age of eighteen, Fang was exposed to the gestural and expressive abstractions of Willem de Kooning, Cecily Brown and Jackson Pollock, whose drip paintings in particular opened her eyes to the possibilities of painting. Understanding it to be a bodily experience, Fang loses herself in the rhythmic flowing forms which are unpredictable yet beautifully harmonious, describing the entire process as akin to running a marathon. In this way, the cathartic act of painting facilitates the release of unrestrained emotions through the physicality of the medium. Not only do her prodigious paintings reflect the anxieties inherent to New York, but they are also an outlet for the artist's residual childhood frustrations of feeling at odds with the strict rules in place within Asian culture.

The exhibition centres on both the literal and metaphorical associations of water. The title, Dangerous Waters, refers to the tumultuous and uncertain world we live in. Yet, on another level, it highlights water as a spatially divisive body, separating continents with vast oceans, which paintings like Sea Storm or Frozen Waves 02 evoke. Drawin to repetitive organic formations, Fang's oeuvre conjures strong oceanic associations, cautioning the viewer with undertones of danger as hinted in the painting's titles, such as Dark Clouds 02 or Dark Forrest Strolling. From the artist's birthplace in coastal Shenzhen to the East River in New York, water holds a particular significance to the artist, a familiarity that shines through in the energy and fluidity of her paintings.

Interlaced with femininity, Dangerous Waters explores traditional Chinese associations between women and water. The character Jia Baoyu in Dream of the Red Chamber (1791) said, 'Women are like water, possessing spirituality like water, goodness like water, resilience like water, and tenderness like water.' These feminine associations carry through into Fang's paintings as she explores the symbolism between the two. On the one hand, women are associated with the life-giving properties of water, yet Fang also understands 'dangerous waters' to be an allegory for the volatility of feminine desire, both in strength and devastation. Accented with dusty pink hues, Lady's Eardrops masterfully reflects the female experience, using shades of pinks, peaches and reds to celebrate the power of women. Indeed, the colour palette across the series carries meaningful connotations; where pink refers to female desire, blue signifies water.

Characterised by lyrical and bodily swirls, Yuan Fang's paintings simultaneously envelop the viewer into an unruly web and elicit soulful contemplation on our civilisation, be that the uncertainty pervasive in today's geopolitical climate or the broader associations surrounding water as a symbolic entity. Expanding on the multi-layered complexities of her painting, Fang explains that 'I always wanted to depict a sense of turbulence or chaos which mimics the living condition of human beings.'

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Yuan Fang


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