Biennale of Sydney

Jes Fan

Left to Right: Jes Fan, 'Form begets Function', 2020; and 'Xenophoria', 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from Canada Council for the Arts and the Consulate General of Canada in Sydney. Courtesy the artist and Empty Gallery, Hong Kong. Photograph: Ken Leanfore, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.
Jes Fan, 'Form begets Function', 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from Canada Council for the Arts and the Consulate General of Canada in Sydney. Courtesy the artist and Empty Gallery, Hong Kong. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.
Jes Fan, 'Function begets Form', 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from Canada Council for the Arts and the Consulate General of Canada in Sydney. Courtesy the artist and Empty Gallery, Hong Kong. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.
Jes Fan, 'Form begets Function', 2020; and 'Function begets Form', 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from Canada Council for the Arts and the Consulate General of Canada in Sydney. Courtesy the artist and Empty Gallery, Hong Kong. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.

Jes Fan

Born 1990 in Ontario, Canada
Lives and works in New York, United States; and Hong Kong, China


"In my interpretation of these forms, the surface architecture of the shelves references an expanded illustration of the skin’s dermal layer. This smooth surface is disrupted by blobs of hand-blown glass pumped full of an array of biological substances such as: milk, blood, semen, melanin, and sex hormones."

Jes Fan’s two large sculptures are inspired by classical Chinese scholar’s shelves used by the educated elite to display their collections of objects and ephemera. These hand-blown, glass vessels are injected with biological substances cradled by curves and dips and appear to grow from the sculptural surface like pearls from the flesh of an oyster. The thin veil of glass allows audiences to witness the decay of these liquids over time.

The video work Xenophoria, as opposed to the term ‘xenophobia’, refers to a love of the foreign, and is inspired by the name of a mysterious species of aquatic carrier shell. This creature, Xenophora pallidae, calcifies free-floating objects in the water to its spine, bringing foreign bodies into its own structure. Likewise, Xenophoria stages a delirious search for the melanin pigment – the molecule responsible for skin colour – as it manifests in both human and non-human bodies. Referencing the aesthetics of both microscopic imagery and ASMR videos, the work depicts such actions as dissecting squids and bursting their ink sacs, tracing the discoloured tumours within Qing Dynasty painter Lam Qua’s medical paintings, harvesting fungi, and locating bodily moles in an absurdist investigation of the substance of racial othering.

Speculating on the fraught intersection between biology and identity, Jes Fan’s trans-disciplinary practice emerges from a sustained inquiry into the concept of otherness. Primarily working in the field of expanded sculpture, Fan navigates the slippery complexities of identity as guided by the tactile and material histories of his chosen media. In Fan’s work, he incorporates materials imbued with erotic and queer signifiers, such as silicone, soap and glass, as well as biological substances such as estrogen, testosterone and melanin.

Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from Canada Council for the Arts and the Consulate General of Canada in Sydney.
Courtesy the artist and Empty Gallery, Hong Kong

Exhibited Artwork

Jes Fan, Form begets Function, 2020, aqua resin, pigment, wood, fiberglass, glass, urine, depo-testosterone, melanin, 193 x 127 x 40.5 cm. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from Canada Council for the Arts and the Consulate General of Canada in Sydney. Courtesy the artist and Empty Gallery, Hong Kong

Photograph: Zan Wimberley

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Jes Fan, Function begets Form, 2020, aqua-resin, pigment, wood, fiberglass, glass, estrogen, semen, blood, 193 x 127 x 40.5 cm. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from Canada Council for the Arts and the Consulate General of Canada in Sydney. Courtesy the artist and Empty Gallery, Hong Kong

Photograph: Zan Wimberley

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia