In a harmonious combination of colour and light, he creates serene images that purposely put the viewer on the wrong footing. On closer inspection, the wide, veined landscapes turn out to be industrial landscapes. Teh depicts the roots of this economic wonder in a mix of earth, sweat and smoke. The Kunsthal is exhibiting part of Teh's series ‘Dark Clouds' and ‘Traces', for which he took photographs in various Chinese provinces.
‘Dark Clouds' portrays daily life in the Chinese coal industry. Steel and coke factories are the backdrop against which Teh records frozen images that seem far from realistic. In other photographs, Teh uses a more dynamic type of imagery when he zooms in on labourers trying to relax after work at a café or by playing billiards. In five monumental photographs from the series entitled ‘Traces', Teh examines the sparsely populated landscapes of Chinese hinterlands. These impoverished provinces were once lush and green, but savage industrial exploitation has caused an imbalance in the region's ecosystem. Linfen, once affectionately dubbed ‘Modern city of fruit of flowers', no longer does justice to that name. In the exhibition, portraits of labourers interact with panoramic industrial landscapes.
British-Malaysian photographer Ian Teh works autonomously and on commission for third parties, and his work is regularly published in magazines such as Time, The New Yorker and Newsweek. Teh has exhibited all over the world at locations including the Kiang Gallery, Atlanta, the Paris Beijing Gallery in Beijing, and Flowers in London. In 2010, the literary magazine Granta (London) published a ten-year retrospective of his work. Teh received an honourable mention for the Prix Pictet award in 2009, and in 2011 was awarded the Magnum Emergency Funding Grant. Work by Teh is included in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art collection, the Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer collection and the Howard Stern Collection.
The exhibition includes a publication entitled ‘Undercurrents'. This comprehensive book comprises five series, with ‘Dark Clouds' presented as last. ‘Undercurrents' is published by Timezone 8/Paris-Beijing Photo Gallery. The publication ‘Traces' is published by Deep Sleep Editions.