In these stark photographic collages that seem to possess the infinite density of a fractal, artist Yang Yongliang questions unchecked industrialization, the impact of climate change, and pressing social issues in his native China. Each image seems to suggest a post-apocalyptic future where the forces of urbanization collide with the natural world, creating a drab black and white dystopia.
Born in Shanghai in 1980, for ten years he studied traditional Chinese painting with the calligraphy master Yang Yang.
Photographer, painter, videographer and visual artist, he graduated from the Shanghai Institute of Design, China Academy of Arts, in visual communication and design. He is now a teacher at Shanghai Institute of Vision Art.
His work has been exhibited multiple times, including Disorder, the itinerary exhibition attached to the Pictet Prize, at the Paris Modern Art Museum, and at the Musée de L’Homme which now owns one of the artist’s work as part of the permanent collection. China In Motion (2017) at Musées d’Annecy during the Animation Film Festival, Shanshui Within (2016) at the Shanghai MoCa. He also participated in the double exhibition 2050, A Brief Future History (2015), inspired by Jacques Attali’s book by the same name at the Royal Fine Arts Museum of Belgium and at the Palazzo Reale in Milan, Italy. In 2014, he participated in the 5th Asian Art Triennial in Fukuoka and the large-scale exhibition Chinese Ink at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In 2013, he was part of the 5th Contemporary Art Biennale of Moscow. In 2012 he was part of the Babel exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille and The Creator Project at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing.
Inspired by Chinese ancestral culture and the famous Shan Shui*, Yang Yongliang works with digital photography like a painter. The overall view of his work reminds us of a landscape, but a careful analysis will reveal an image made of man-made shapes and the representation of an undoubtedly urban context.
The characteristic trees from the classical Song dynasty paintings become metallic lattice or poles from which are drawn electrical power lines. His inhabitants are cut off from the natural environment and seem to lead a life pairing with a kind of anonymity.
With the new series Time Immemorial (2016), the artist keeps developing a critic approach to reality while searching for a spiritual source in his country’s relentless march between technological progress and annihilation. The contemporary urban imagery in total decay is always present: the mountains covered by giant skyscrapers in ruins will soon be flooded by the rise of the waters, taking more and more over the surface. However, Yang Yongliang subtly suggests a possible agreement between tradition and modernity, nature and culture. In this new series, the very materiality of photography as a media is dealt with. Firstly, the original images created digitally are printed in negative on a fine arts paper sheet. Then each image is photographed with an 8×10-inch traditional film camera. Finally, the hand-developed film is mounted on a backlit wooden case, according to the artist’s intent to preserve a digital image on a traditional photographic film.
Time Immemorial opens at Galerie Paris-Beijing on November 4, 2017.