Xiaojing Yan, Cloud Cell, 2014. Freshwater pearls, aluminum, and monofilament thread, 96 x 45 x 45 in.

Xiaojing Yan

Stouffville, Ontario, Canada

The Latcham Gallery

Cloud Cell, the central component in Xiaojing Yan’s recent exhibition “Hybrid Vigour,” is a splendidly ethereal and luminescent installation. Constructed of thousands of freshwater pearls suspended on monofilament between two aluminum squares, this cloud-like rendering uses light and space to great effect. As in the contemplation of clouds, there are many interpretations. Yan’s references include the scholars’ rocks prevalent in Chinese gardens, which have been used as objects of meditation since ancient times. The eroded limestone that Yan renders through air and light has visual properties reminiscent of the mountainous landscapes seen in Asian brush paintings, but it can also be read as an ominous mushroom cloud, or even a death’s head. In terms of image and material, Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull comes to mind, with its cold, glittering surfaces and its intimations of mortality. But this notion emerges as a counterpoint to Yan’s piece, which is evanescent and porous, something with soft reflective possibilities and made from materials that develop through an organic connectedness to water, a gentleness rather than force. Diamonds deep within a stony crucible of igneous rock are compressed over eons, while pearls are an accumulation inside a small animal. The interplay of light and air continually re-creates the piece as it is viewed from all sides…see the entire review in the print version of October’s Sculpture magazine.