Jes Fan, a multidisciplinary artist born in Canada and raised in Hong Kong, has emerged as a groundbreaking force for gender equality in contemporary art. Currently based in the U.S., his thought-provoking sculptures delve into the intersections of biology, identity, and creativity, challenging established norms and contributing to a broader discourse on gender fluidity, reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality.A photograph
Fan's artistic journey takes through a profound exploration of the concept of "otherness," addressing the complex relationship between binary body structures and identity. Hard Body / Soft System and Testo-Soap serve as exemplary pieces that delve into the transformative nature of bodies, particularly in the context of transgender identity where people have the ability to shape their biological bodies and their gender identities to their will.
In Testo-Soap where the act of soap making is employed to explore the performativity of gender acts. Fan engages with the inherently repetitive act of cleansing, using depo testosterone suspended in cottonseed oil. This project challenges societal norms around masculinity, offering a unique perspective on gender affirmation through everyday rituals.
In his first solo exhibition in Asia, titled Mother Is A Woman, Fan showcased a titular piece which challenges traditional notions of motherhood. Mother Is A Woman utilizes unconventional materials such as estrogen from his mother's urine to create a custom beauty cream. Through the accompanying video work, Fan prompts contemplation on the synthesis of nature and identity, asking whether absorbing his mother's estrogen could redefine his own femininity. This subversion of stereotypes broadens the definition of "mother" beyond kinships, contributing to a more inclusive understanding of family structures.
Fan's expertise in glass making, honed at the Rhode Island School of Design, manifests in works like Visible Woman. This installation, resembling a geometric matrix screen, integrates classical Chinese architectural aesthetics while displaying unrecognizable human organs. By appropriating the Visible Man model used in anatomy classes during the 60s, Fan creates a dialogue on the "variables" and "strangeness" inherent in the binary body, showing how binary gender expressions are never apparent in most of human’s organs.
The fluidity observed in the production of glass parallels the evolving options for changing the human body. Fan's meticulous craftsmanship embodies the changing concept of nature as defined by humans, reflecting the fluidity he seeks to explore. This dynamic approach is evident in sculptures such as the Visible Woman, blurring the lines between the expected and the unconventional.
Fan's background in glass has not only shaped his artistic technique but has also fueled his exploration of how objects are made and derived. His meticulous research into the pharmaceutical production of steroid hormones reveals a fascinating connection between testosterone, estrogen, and soybean phytosterols. Through pieces like Whatnots, he systematically packing soybeans into capsules, Fan visualizes the bean as a symbol for androgyny, capable of generating both secondary sex characteristics.
Fan is also working on a collage of medical illustrations exploring body modification, he questions the boundaries between socially acceptable and unacceptable forms of alteration. The drawing, intended as wallpaper, serves as a metaphorical queer camouflage, prompting contemplation on the evolving landscape of body modification in the age of technology. By juxtaposing prosthetics, implants, cosmetic surgery, and gender affirmation surgery, Fan challenges preconceived notions of what is deemed "natural" or "synthetic."
Jes Fan's artworks, deeply rooted in the realms of biology, identity, and creativity, contribute significantly to the ongoing discourse on gender equality. Through sculptures that challenge stereotypes, redefine motherhood and explore the fluidity of forms, Fan invites viewers to question established norms. As an artist, Jes Fan exemplifies the transformative power of art in promoting understanding, empathy and inclusivity.