Chinese Shan-Shui Tattoo

December 22, 2017–April 15, 2018

Huang Yan is one of a number of contemporary Chinese artists who use the body as the vehicle of expression for their work, a trend emerging in the Chinese art world in the 1990s. Huang uses his own body as the surface for classical landscape paintings, which are basis for his photographs. He has become a leading voice among Chinese artists who extend the shanshui (literally “mountain-water”) landscape tradition into contemporary art.

The landscape of forested mountains is painted by artist Zhang Tiemei (Huang’s wife) on Huang’s chest, back, and arms. The landscape is reconfigured in each of the photographs as the artist adapts his position, by folding his arms, clasping his hands, and spreading, closing, or interlacing his fingers. This is the first time the Smith College Museum of Art has displayed the set of thirteen images in its entirety.


Image: Huang Yan, born China, 1966. Chinese Shan-Shui Tattoo, 1999. Thirteen C-prints. Gift of Ethan Cohen in honor of Joan Lebold Cohen, class of 1954, and Jerome A. Cohen, SC 2012:54