William Yang - miscellaneous obsessions

Exhibition: 16 October to 16 November, 2002

William Yang

William Yang

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Essentially, William Yang works as a photo journalist of his own life, capturing the world around him, its people, places and events. MISCELLANEOUS OBSESSIONS, showing at Stills Gallery as part of the Sydney 2002 Gay Games Cultural Festival, comprises both new work and old photos not previously shown. Continuing the themes of his retrospective exhibition, DIARIES, of 1998, many of Yang's familiar themes are here: family, male erotica, beach, travel and food. As always, Yang offers a clear-sighted and compassionate view of his world.

One of the large pieces is a collage of 64 black and white photos titled MY FAMILY IN NORTH QUEENSLAND. This piece was originally commissioned by the Cairns Regional Gallery for their Federation Exhibition in 2001. Yang's family came from the south of China in the 1880's to North Queensland. In this work he uses old family pictures, new portraits and photographs of the environment in North Queensland. This piece was shown at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra but this is the first time it will be shown in Sydney.

Advances in digital technology have made colour printing more accessible and affordable. In one of the sections, Beach, Yang looks at a series of colour photos he took in the early 1980's of the Eastern Suburb beaches. Then he was fascinated with the beach culture, the surf lifesavers, and the beach pools. Later he lived at Bondi during the 1990's and he made another series of photos of Bondi Beach. This series is much quieter, more concerned with everyday life where he took his camera to the beach when he went swimming in the summer.

Yang has photographed Sydney gay community since the early seventies and although he doesn't photograph the scene now, he continues to photograph the male form. "Photographing the male nude is one of the guilty pleasures of my old age," he says. One of the main pieces in this section is a collage called BEN. "Ben took control of the sessions. He wanted sexy photos, though not too revealing. He wanted to work through images of himself as a sexual being. It wasn't an intellectual process, some of the poses came from associations of himself as a child. Later we both agreed that we could never recreate these images again because he was imagining experiences he later lived out and he couldn't go back to that state of innocence."

Over the past fourteen years Yang has been doing performance pieces with slide projection in the theatre. SADNESS, FRIENDS OF DOROTHY, SHADOWS and BLOOD LINKS are some of the titles. These have toured extensively in Australia and Overseas. Yang has always traveled with his camera. He likes visiting famous places and regards himself as a superior tourist. "I go to the same places as many thousands of tourists and we all take zillions of photographs, but I like to think I have a better eye." He has photos of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, the Gaudi apartments in Barcelona, Caesar's Palace at Las Vegas and The Polynesian Pools at Roturua in New Zealand, "my favourite bath house in the world."

Wherever he is, Yang always photographs the food. " I like visiting markets and even supermarkets in different countries just to see what they are selling. I like eating French cooking but it's hard to capture the subtlety of the cuisine in photographs, German food is more photogenic because it is simpler. The Australian barbecue has its allure."

As well as the above, MISCELLANEOUS OBSESSIONS includes odd photos that defy classification. They represent the diverse and wondrous world that Yang inhabits.