Jes Fan is a multidisciplinary artist recognised for sculptures that explore the social constructs of gender, race, and identity. Fan's sculptures are made from glass, silicone, and resin and often incorporate biological substances like oestrogen and testosterone. Jes Fan exhibited work at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022.Read More
Fan was born in Scarborough, Canada. They were raised in Hong Kong by a family of physical labourers. Fan's father managed a small toy factory and their aunt worked in a factory. Fan's upbringing encouraged an interest in making despite craft being considered a low form of art at the time.
In 2014, Fan graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Glass Making.
Jes Fan's artistic practice focuses on making artwork that examines the intersection of biology and identity while challenging the social constructs surrounding gender in the 21st century. Although Fan's work is primarily sculptural, they also work with moving image and performance.
Fan's sculptures feature hand-blown glass spheres injected with provocative materials like testosterone-based soap, their mother's own urine, black mould, and cosmetic products rich in oestrogen. By pairing smooth and glossy glass forms with decaying biological matter, Fan challenges what is valued and accepted in contemporary culture. The polished finish of the bulbous glass surfaces hints at viewers' own reflections, while presenting grotesque liquids embedded inside the work that are deemed dirty or contagious.
'Systems' (2018—ongoing) is a series of sculptures made from composite resin, glass, melanin, estradiol, depo-testosterone, silicone, and wood. The work consists of rounded glass objects balancing on flesh-coloured structures. The glass spheres are filled with silicone, into which Fan injects a variety of substances like estradiol, melanin, depo-testosterone, and progesterone.
Fan's biomorphic sculptures represent the paradoxes of gender constructs in contemporary society by displaying soft and fluid forms suspended from rigid structures. The juxtaposition of soft and severe conveys the rival forces at play in the binary thinking that exists in society today.
Fan portrays their personal experience as a transgender immigrant in 'Systems' by depicting a fluid and malleable structure that is subject to change. 'Systems' probes what constitutes normal, natural bodies and examines our assumptions regarding identity, gender, and race.
In 2020, Fan was commissioned to make two large sculptures and a moving-image work for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney.
The sculptures titled Form Begets Function (2020) and Function Begets Form (2020) are made from a range of materials including aqua resin, pigment, wood, fibreglass, glass, urine, depo-testosterone, and melanin. When making the works, Fan drew inspiration from Chinese scholars' shelves and the small collectibles they would display. Fan's sculptures house small glass vessels filled with biological substances intended to decay and decompose over time. The glass rounds appear as though they are growing from the sculpture's shelved surface, like an unusual organic form.
The moving-image work, titled Xenophoria (2018—2020), is a video that depicts close-up shots of liquid and biological matter being prodded on petri dishes in a laboratory. The title refers to a love of the foreign and otherness and also references a species of aquatic shell that adopts foreign bodies into its own structure. Xenophoria references Fan's own cultural heritage as an immigrant born in Canada, raised in Hong Kong, and now living in the United States.
In 2017, Fan was the recipient of the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant. In 2022, Fan was awarded the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant.
Jes Fan has exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions.
Selected solo exhibitions include Sites of Wounding: Part 1, Empty Gallery, Hong Kong (2022); Disposed to Add, Vox Populi Gallery, Philadelphia (2017); No Clearance in Niche, Museum of Arts and Design, New York (2017); Ot(her), Sarah Doyle Gallery, Brown University, Providence (2016).
Selected group exhibitions include the 59th Venice Biennale (2022); 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020); An Opera For Animals, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai (2019); Set on Freedom, Queens Museum, New York (2017).
Jes Fan's artwork is included in the collections of several galleries and museums. Selected collections include the Kadist Art Foundation in Paris, the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum in Massachusetts, the Sunpride Foundation in Hong Kong, and the X Museum in Beijing.
Fan's website can be found here.
Phoebe Bradford | Ocula | 2022