A koan is a learning construct in Zen Buddhism: it is a story, dialogue, question or statement used to provoke meditation in students, and illustrate the inadequacy of reasoning.

In her series Koan, Xiaoyi Chen (b. 1992, China) desires to achieve this confrontation with quandaries in imagery, opening up the territory of the pre-verbal. She starts with taking abstract landscape photographs and then uses a photo-etching process to generate imaginative, poetic images that appeal to intuition. By using exclusively black ink, and printing on different Japanese papers, she creates images largely graphic and symbolic. Chen describes photography as her own philosophical approach, explaining: “I try to explore beneath the surface of things by simplification and abstraction to awaken spiritual awareness and intuition before the symbolic.”

Koan was featured in GUP#53, the Infinity issue.