No. 223

No. 223, as Chinese photographer Lin Zhi Peng is arguably better known, is the forerunner in a collective of modern photographers whose work graces the pages of New Photography in China by 3030 Press, published last year. The reviewers of auspiciousdragon.net argue of the book that 'these are young photographers indeed, and the photos contain a heavy mix of the sort of self-obsessed, crude, and banal that you might expect from a similar collection anywhere in the rich world...that is, these young photographers are being normal'.

Even from the few images displayed with this post, it should be obvious that to use the term 'normal' to describe the behaviour exhibited in 223's extensive archive of images is an extremely cynical move on behalf of the birdwatching duo responsible for auspiciousdragon, which takes a boldly eclectic approach to sharing expertise on photography, culinary techniques and cancer. It's not hard to see their point; whilst Abbey Drucker's sweetly nostalgic work betrays a dated, unsophisticated sense of humour, Lin Zhi Peng occasionally demonstrates a painfully modern and equally immature attraction to the comic potential of bodily fluids and poor visual innuendo...

If Guy Bourdin has shot the above, 'bumbum cock', it would just be highly questionable art. I honestly think, however, it might be preferable in the context of 223's portfolio to give him the benefit of the doubt and classify this under 'mildly amusing mistake'. 223 clearly has a sense of humour that keeps him working in the boundary between 'surreal' and 'ridiculous'; he stumbles over both sides of the line with an immense range of emotional tone perfectly executed with coherent style, refined composition, sensitive yet modern lighting and recurrent themes. There is a healthy dose of immaturity in his choice of subject that rarely bleeds over into his technique, and it is this immaturity that is the source of his flair, energy, experimentalism and intimacy with a strange, vivid subculture of lithe adolescents drunk on adrenaline and radiating sexual tension.

Whilst it may align itself with some of the enduring stereotypes of 'youth culture, 'normal' doesn't even nearly cut it. The image used on the cover of New Photography in China depicts the faceless half of a girl in pink tights squatting and spitting a stream of what has been identified (by Theme Magazine, without any supporting evidence) as soy milk, past her exposed crotch and onto the ground between her feet; a striking, stomach-turning composition ripe with chemically-heightened libidinous energy (or 'punk', if you will) and the major export of Japan: the fucking surreal.

In a very intelligent, if not particularly incisive, interview with PingMag 223 relates the philosophy of new, younger artists created by the democracy of blogging and digital distribution - 'if you like it, do it'. Trite as this soundbite may be, the most sceptical critic cannot deny that the charm of this approach is pervasive in his portfolio.

Whatever the qualities of his already sizeable collection on Flickr, it is clear from his most recent images that his style is developing. More bleak landscapes with flecks of colour and swirls of snow and foam are replacing the luminous youths throwing milk and cats caught on the windowsill, and his technique is providing ample support for his experimentation. New images appear on his disturbingly tacky blog, designed by 223 himself and not boding especially well for this year's follow-up to New Photography in China produced by members of the same collective, New Graphic Design in China; following his chain of thought, however, will present difficulties to those without a working knowledge of Chinese. To assist the dwindling majority of those who don't, the link '下一页' appears to take you to the proceeding page.

223 may have all the warning indicators of a gimmick, but there is substance and sensitivity in his prolific work. As one blogger describes, many of the images prove unforgettable.

also on aS.blogspot

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