CURATED BY NIE XIAOYI
Deng Yun's photos are private and sensational, with a rare simplicity and frankness in our time. He is more like an ordinary guy with sensitive eyes who always stares at his life which happens to be slow and lonely. When looking at his photos of road trip views or illuminated factories running at night, I feel like I am diving into his life and suddenly fall into a floating and silent space without awareness. Deng is not a ‘professional’: his photos don’t form a series, he isn’t using the ‘project’ to create his work like college-educated artists selecting a phenomenon to research and producing a set of images for display. He’s not even an ‘artist’, as he doesn’t take these photographs to enter the exhibition-centred system or to update art history. ‘Art lover and practitioner’ is how he identifies himself. It is appropriate.
Deng has a blog on WeChat called Secret Life. It seems that in Japan, he lives alone in a city and often visits forests, seaside and snowy places. His landscapes usually have large blank space. He rarely shoots people (but often writes about people in his poems); if people appear they are often blurred. However, Deng takes strange and pure portraits of objects he encounters in his daily life. A curtain of lighted rain on a stormy night, quivering leaves, moths... They are usually put under artificial light with great subtlety, and often overexposed like the soul is escaping from its body. These extremely sensational stares, of course, offer an unusual beauty, but more importantly, Deng bears the contemporary life so honestly that he has anchored some emotions of our time, i.e. constant loneliness, restrained sentiment, and expectant silence for quirkiness. I thought of Wolfgang Tillmans while browsing Deng’s photos: they are both sensatively spotting the micro-spectacles in everyday life, weaving photography, poetry, and music together into their practice. Their expression is ultimately about what they are composed of; what they present is what they are immersed in, and the depth of their expression depends on their own acuteness and honesty. When today people’s sensations are shifting fast, Deng always turns to and confronts with the trivial elements in his life. In this sense, it is our own life that has quietly touched us when we look at Deng Yun’s photos.