After attending the same artist residency in Xiamen, China, photographer Sarah Mei Herman and visual artist Tara Fallaux explore the concept of intimacy in a culture different from their own. The resulting projects are presented in an artistic dialogue at Galerie Caroline O’Breen.
Rather than highlighting contradictions between Western and Eastern culture, both artists seek out the universal. They find common ground in the meaning of love and intimacy among young people. They bear witness to the recognizable human experience of uncertainty and change as these young people make choices on the road to adulthood.
Sarah Mei developed a project Solace centering stories of queerness among Chinese people. These stories offer a sensitive and nuanced portrait of young people navigating the ambiguities of friendship, sexuality, and an undulating understanding of what it means to be queer in Chinese society.
Same-sex relationships used to be a traditionally accepted part of Chinese culture. Under the influence of the West in the 18-19th centuries, homophobia became more prevalent; under Mao, homosexuality was criminalised. Since the turn of the last millennium, same-sex relationships returned to their legal status, and homosexuality declassified as a mental disorder. The younger generation embraces LGBTQ rights, but the stigma against queer people still remains. The project Solace by Sarah Mei Herman evinces portraits of queer youth in modern China — a book with an expansive selection from the project was published in New York in December 2022.
“While faces and bodies have been photographed from all angles since the 19th century, queer communities have been sidelined by the world of photography. Today, we finally give them a face. With this series, Sarah Mei Herman brings to light people who live too often hidden from our view. Her photography allows us to open up to them and allows them to open up to us.” – Nathalie Herschdorfer, Director Photo Elysée, Switzerland
BIO Sarah Mei Herman
Sarah Mei Herman studied photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Art in The Hague and at The Royal College of Art in London. Her work has been shown internationally, among others at The National Portrait Gallery in London, Le Chateau d’Eau in Toulouse, Benaki Museum in Athens, Musée d’Art Moderne in Liege, JIMEI X ARLES International Photofestival in Xiamen and at Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne. In 2020 her project Germano, about her Jewish family history, had a solo exhibition at the Jewish History Museum in Amsterdam.
Herman’s work is part of collections at a.o. Rabobank Art Collection, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and AMC Art Collection, as well as a growing number of private collections.
Tara Fallaux created a powerfully intimate film ‘I Write This Letter In Bed’ about Rocy, a lonely young woman in China, and how she reckons with her doubts and insecurities around the concepts of love and marriage. In her project Perfect Pearl, Fallaux places her subjects in the context of their natural habitat, Chinese urban life.
The artist investigates how young Chinese women reconcile the intimate and contemporary dimensions of love with the engrained traditions.
Fallaux mainly works on long-term investigative and narrative projects involving photography, film and sound. Her multimedia presentation at the gallery consists of a film installation, two lightboxes and photographic prints. The artist uses lightboxes to juxtapose the ‘picture perfect’ dream quality of a white- dress wedding to the intimacy of this most private moment of a young woman. Just like the wedding in a white dress in China — a contemporary symbol of the ultimate commodified romantic goal.
Perfect Pearl, the book of the project, was published in April 2022. The film ‘I Write This Letter In Bed’ was never screened before and will have its premiere at the gallery.
BIO Tara Fallaux
Tara Fallaux is known as a director of award-winning documentary films Over The Rainbow and Love Letters. In 2022, Perfect Pearl was shortlisted for Prix du Livre in Rencontres D’Arles and on display at Espace Van Gogh as well as the Technische Sammlungen Museum in Dresden as part of the Hellerau Photography award. The work of Fallaux has been shown internationally at festivals and museums, a.o. Hot Docs Toronto, Rencontres D’Arles, IDFA, Fotofestival Naarden, Guernsey Photography Festival, Technische Sammlungen Museum Dresden, NYC Independent Film Festival, Lincoln Center and the Melkweg Gallery.
Tara Fallaux : I Write This Letter in Bed – Sarah Mei Herman : Solace
February 18 – April 8, 2023
Festive Opening on Sat 18 Feb, 17–19 hrs
Galerie Caroline O’Breen
1016 SR Amsterdam The Netherlands