A true Jeune, pure et dure (young, pure and strong), Luo Yang is the complex example of the romantic, spirited, inspired and inspiring artist who is not afraid of handling themes of extreme intimacy as well as the controversy of female identity/freedom in modern Eastern society. Born and raised in China, Luo Yang developed a unique style proposing highly staged portraits and carefully constructed poses, which alternate with a raw, blurred snapshot-aesthetic.
Driven by her personal experiences and borne from an intuitive dialogue with her subjects, Yang’s images are bold and honest, intimate and sensitive at the same time. The series GIRLS explores the notion of youth and femininity while challenging traditional beliefs about women in Chinese society. However, her images are not about provocation or rebellion but about the “fragility and braveness inside of us, thanks to which we face the world with our sincerity”. They radiate stillness and a sense of calm that resists drama.
Yang works captures a refreshing perspective of these fragments of contemporary Hi-stories carried by young women, who agree to open themselves in the entire beauty and vulnerability of their truth. GIRLS depicts an emerging Chinese subculture that defies imposed expectations and stereotypes – GIRLS are bad-assed and self-aware, yet insecure, vulnerable and torn, with a supreme sense of cool. Underlying tensions and ambivalent emotions animate Yang’s images, which, above all, testify to the GIRLS’ individuality. They thus reflect a shifting mindset with regard to concepts of femininity and identity in present-day China. The artist photographed girls and women around her – friends, acquaintances, sometimes strangers –, attempting to grasp an understanding of their lives as well as her own. Although different, she felt that they shared the same contradicting emotions, confusions and concerns. It is in that connection that Yang found the strength and delicacy of her subject.
Luo has had exhibitions all over China and took part in major shows in Europe. In 2012, Ai Weiwei designated her one of the “rising stars of Chinese photography” (“Generation Next: A Photo Essay”, New Statesman, 22 October 2012). Soon after, she participated in his show “FUCK OFF 2” (2013) at the Groninger Museum, Netherlands, where Ai – in a sequel to his radical FUCK OFF-exhibition (2000) in Shanghai – brought together a handpicked range of up and coming Chinese artists. At the end of last year, Luo was consecrated by the BBC as one of the 100 most influential women in the world.