‘Mirror Gazing’ was exhibited in the 2017 show ‘Occulere‘, an exhibition which derived its title from the Latin word meaning to “conceal”. The artist was captivated by the similarity this word displayed to the word “ocular”, relating to vision and the eye. The correlation between seeing and concealing is what Meng-Yu Yan investigates through video, sculptural, aquatic, and photographic experimentation with reflections. The artist is confronted by the dichotomy of the mirror in its tendency to both reveal and deceive.
Influenced by the art of scrying (water or mirror gazing), the artist translates this traditional form of occult magick into a body of work that contemplates selfhood as liquid. Scrying is a process of searching for answers, yet often the visions revealed are blurred or distorted. As a result the artist plays with distortion to emulate the shape-shifting, fluid essence of being. Other influences include Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mirror”, Roni Horn’s discussion of androgyny, and Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” which incited the artist’s inquiry into the origins of self-awareness.
The experience of ‘Occulere’ involves a peculiar kind of opacity. First of all, the work is drained of colour, the entire exhibition is black and white. The title suggests an apparent paradox – to allow both vision as well as concealment. An encounter with any work of art involves a kind of mirroring. Neurology confirms that human mirror systems operate unconsciously or subconsciously, as well as in ways that are more obvious. We regard another person’s art both as the other and the self. So how do we regard work that involves mirror, self-portrait and video? How does the work of ‘Occulere’ reveal itself to the viewer? Photography makes the erroneous suggestion that time can stand still. The viewer experiences a singular moment of art creation. It represents a particular set moment in time, the death to the process of the art making, unable to recall other parts of the process. However, it is with that finitude that the artist plays. The art extends into the infinite by means of mirroring, referring to many states at once. Just as the mirror can hold more than one reflection at once, the artist’s work forces us to move back and forth in time through inner and outer selves.
Meng-Yu Yan is a photomedia artist based in Sydney, best known for their creation of mystical dreamscapes and haunting self-portraits. Expanding upon their photographic background, their work encompasses a variety of mediums including video, installation, aquaria, performance, sculpture, and projection.