Yuwen Vera Wang The Land of Rebirth

May 16–Jun 15
    Yuwen Vera Wang, As the time passes by, 2023. Courtesy of the artist
Yuwen Vera Wang, As the time passes by, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

In her documentary series The Land of Rebirth, Toronto- and Yantai-based artist Yuwen Vera Wang captures the lives and living conditions of the elderly population of Wang Gezhuang village. Drawing on her personal connection to the village and its villagers, Wang’s images poetically record not only the private lives of the inhabitants, but also the collective life of the community.

In the summer of 2023, Wang returned to her grandparents’ hometown in rural Yantai, China, to explore and document the experiences of the village’s inhabitants, a populace made up almost entirely of elderly and aging people, many of whom have been left behind in the wake of the next generation’s moving on from rural life into urban centres.

Speaking of her project, Wang states: “Wang Gezhuang village is a place where my family heritage is preserved both physically and spiritually, as my paternal grandparents used to live in the village when they were alive. Building on this personal connection, I wanted to capture the living conditions of the elderly in Wang village who live with a lack of social services and health care. I wanted to document their lives using a poetic gaze to explore the psychological impact on elderly in the village due to the prolonged separation from their children.”

Though there is often a feeling of sadness and isolation to Wang’s images, there is also an overwhelming amount of beauty, attention, and care. The series documents the villagers’ private lives, but also their rich, shared life as a community, as they gather to play cards, share meals, garden, or walk by the water. Landscapes alternate with domestic spaces; careful details mingle with the big picture in a series of images that feels intimately connected to its subjects, the rhythms of their lives, and the complex textures of their pasts and their present.

Yuwen Vera Wang, The Character of Joy, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

“I have always believed in the possibility of photography as a carrier of memories that can transcend the places where people were born, grew up and live, and possibly even cultures and generations.” Wang has explained. “I also believe that birth and death are a cycle, like the blooming and withering of flowers, which alternate with each other. Life will face death from the moment of birth, and death also means a new life. Yet with photography serving as a medium of memories, its ability to recollect and preserve means a kind of rebirth.”

Yuwen Vera Wang, Untitled, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

Presented by Artspace Gallery in partnership with CONTACT

Yuwen Vera Wang is a fine art and documentary photographer based in Toronto, Canada, and Yantai, China. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (2022) from Toronto Metropolitan University, and she is currently a graduate student in the Documentary Media program at the same institution. Yuwen’s photographic projects have focused on issues of urbanization, the relationship between humans and nature, identity and ties of family affection. Yuwen uses photography with a poetic gaze to reveal social issues in both Eastern and Western cultures, and also to investigate the common essence of humanity.