Where is the place of nature in the age of rapid urbanisation? Perhaps, it is still close to our heart. However, how to preserve or re-create nature in new cities remains a major challenge, especially when economic growth and efficiency are also strongly desired. In the Forest series, the British-Chinese artist Yan Wang Preston documents the other-worldly landscape of ‘ecology recovery’ in Dali, Yunnan Province, China. Here, while a small rural area is being turned into an international leisure town and an ecology model town, it is decided that nature is to be improved, re-made, or, simply visually mimicked.
The vast amount of semi-artificial soil is brought in to replace every inch of its own topsoil, the latter is seen as being less fertile. Grass and mature trees are planted to make a ready-made forest. Meanwhile, green plastic netting is used to cover up any objects less visually pleasing, for example, construction waste and steep quarries. The objective here does not concern ecology anymore. Rather, it is to be seen as being ‘green’. It is the ultimate abuse of such a life-friendly colour and its symbolic meaning that is documented in Yan Wang Preston’s Forest series. The exhibited images are from a long-term project (2010-2017) with the same title, which is published by Hatje Cantz in 2018.