This online gallery combines two commissions, ‘She Dreams’ and ‘He’, by the Open Eye Gallery. In 2018 and 2019, Yan Wang Preston worked with groups of female and male Chinese students at the University of Liverpool separately, with a view to explore contemporary Chinese identity. She started by asking the students a question each. With the young ladies in 2018, she asked ‘what is your daydream’; with the young men in 2019, she asked ‘what makes you a man’. In this way, from exploring inspirations and fantasies held by the girls, Preston investigated the very notion of masculinity with the boys.

The location, the section of Crosby Beach littered with sea-polished war relics, provided an inclusive and lucid backdrop for the young people, who were otherwise displaced from their homeland in China. The photoshoots were collaborative, combining a strong element of performance by the students as well as the artist’s personal response towards the sitters and the moments that they were within.

The portraits show that the young people are a new, future-facing generation, with a newfound sense of individualism and global citizenship, not just restricted to China. Meanwhile, the young Chinese men show that masculinity does not necessarily include strong muscles. Instead, it can be fluid without a clear boundary from femininity.

The portraits have been extensively exhibited in Liverpool as part of the city’s ‘China Dream’ season in 2018 and as part of LOOK Photo Biennial in 2019. Selected images from ‘She Dreams’ have also been shown as part of the group exhibition ‘A Portrait of’ at Open Eye Gallery in 2019.

See review of the work on Another Man.