Xiaoyi Chen’s spiritual photography

I met Xiaoyi Chen during the vernissage of her “The stranger… and while I was blooming alone, the world was sleeping” photo exhibition, at the Theatre art gallery. I have seen not only the promissory and spiritual artist she is, but the curious, politically concerned, sportive and dreamy woman she actually embodies.


Xiaoyi was born in the Sichuan region of China in 1992. She currently lives and works in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, one of the three most populous cities in Western China. The surrounding Chengdu Plain is also known under the poetic name of the “Country of Heaven” and the “Land of Abundance”. Maybe you have heard about it because it is home of a Chinese national treasure, the Giant Panda. But maybe you don’t know that Chengdu is a region where artists can still enjoy some freedom of expression, being less controlled under the government’s gaze, that favors the growth of a melting pot of artists and new artistic trends can currently see the light.

The artist is a hard worker with large international exposure. Her recent work focuses on the combination of photography and engraving, an association of techniques that sometimes borders abstraction as if to revive our spiritual consciousness. In her creations she suggests the privileged – even mystical – relationship that is formed between nature and the one who contemplates it and invites us to meditate on the place of the man in the universe.

This is not just another photography exhibition; this is an exhibition you discover with your soul. There’s a lot of technical research in her work, but the spiritual side of it emerges stronger dragging the spectator into the deep dark lights and shadows of her images, questioning the meaning of everything, even the existence itself.

Sometimes she plays with the juxtaposition of images, where transparencies make you feel dizzy, or surprises you calling you to use your cell phone technology to reverse the colours of her photographies and unveil images otherwise imperceptible at the eye.


Chen’s practice is tied to a natural, oriental aesthetic, influenced by Western abstract art and oriental philosophy. She uses photography as a tool to question broad concepts that migrate from the personal to the philosophical realm. 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.

During her three-month residency at SMArt in Monthey, Xiaoyi Chen discovers erratic ice blocks during a hazardous walk in the forest. Chen engaged herself in long night walks around these erratic blocks surrounding Monthey. Fascinated by the presence so strong, the monumentality, the “solitude” and the anachronism of these mysterious blocks which evolve within the mountainous landscapes since the dawn of time, she wishes to restore through her photographs and videos the timeless power that they give off; indeed, they constitute a media in their own right that allows them to project into another space-time while revealing the inevitable deterioration of glaciers.


Xiaoyi Chen has exhibited internationally; she received an MA from London College of Communication and a BSc in Photographic Journalism at the University of Leeds MET. In 2014 she was awarded the LCC/Photofusion Prize and the Three Shadows Photography Award in 2015, China’s most prestigious photography prize, and named one of Asia’s 30 Artist 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, solo project in London Art Fair 2017.

Recent exhibitions by Xiaoyi Chen: participation in the International Photography Festival Format, Kassel Photobook Festival, Athens Photo Festival and the China 8 Group at the Folkwang Museum (Germany), the Triennial Echigo-Tsumari Art (Japan) and Jimei x, Arles International Photo Festival 2015, and Chinese Photobooks during the Aarhus Photo Book Week in 2016, Kyoto Asia Art Exhibition Corridor of the City of East Asia 2017 in Kyoto, and photographic and video experiences in southwestern China since 2000 and at A4 Art Museum, late 2017. Recent art fairs: Photo Shanghai and Paris Asian Art Fair in 2016, solo project at the London Art Fair in 2017. In addition, two solo exhibitions in 2017, “Never!” At the Thousand Plateaus Art Space in China, and “One Giant leap” at the Matèria Gallery in Italy.

This multitasking and busy woman is not only on the wave of art, but she’s heading to Portugal to literally ride the waves, enjoying one of her other passions, the surf!

Don’t miss her current exhibitions in Switzerland: one located at the Place Scanavin, in Vevey, during the Festival des Images, and the other at the Crochetan Theatre gallery, until the 2nd of December 2018.


Opening time

Mon-ve from 9h to 12h / 14h to 18h + the evening of shows

Except public holidays

The Gallery will be exceptionally open on Saturday, September 8th from 10am to 6pm.

Free entry

Information: 024 475 79 11

Production of the SMArt program of the Foundation for the Sustainable Development of Mountain Regions in partnership with the Crochetan Theatre and the Festival Images – Visual Arts Biennial of Vevey in which Xiaoyi Chen is exhibited.

His photographic installation is visible at Place Scanavin, in Vevey, during the entire period of the Festival Images, from 8 to 30 September 2018.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s