Shanghai Gallery of Art is pleased to present the solo exhibition of Yang Yongliang, where the artist’s first feature film YAN will be on premiere. A 50-minute offering, YAN is, metaphorically, both as a dream one could never wake up to and as a dilemma one could never pierce through. The protagonist is, seemingly, a swordsman existing in a metropolis; he appears to have an ambition with nowhere to express. Chasing after a tripedal raven’s guide, the swordsman travels back and forth between reality and his mental space. A predecessor challenges him and he bids farewell to an imagined land. The narrative expresses Tao Yuanming’s longing of reclusion exemplified in Peach Blossom Spring. It also introduces Zhuangzi’s paradox of Dream of Butterfly written in On the Equality of Things.
Yang Yongliang’s early works compose the structure of overwhelming cityscapes, in which he describes objective world to its ultimate. Meanwhile, the film could be viewed as a subjective extension. In Chinese traditional landscape paintings, imitating the realistic landscape was never the essence; instead it is meant to reveal the artists’ inner minds. The wandering traveler, the lead figure often seen hidden in the mountainous scenes of traditional landscape paintings, manifest itself as a swordsman in Yang’s film, guiding the audience towards his individual world. Through this black and white filmic journey without dialogue, each transition of a scene and each movement of the character are suggestive. It allows the audience to associate with the unknown man in the swordsman’s outfit. Along with him, we drown in the stress of current lives and scenarios. Onward with him, we are challenged by our other selves. Being with him, we reflect the warmth and bid farewell.
Through Yang’s works in the past decade, we sense his arbitrary yet cheerful insist as a lone creator. He exploits a connection between traditional art and the contemporary, implementing ancient oriental aesthetics and literati beliefs with modern language and digital techniques. His works are creative while not overthrowing classical aestheticism. The artist accumulates a heavy database of documentary urban landscape photos. And with editing skills, he replaces brush and ink with images of architectures to present immersive concrete forests as artificial wonderlands. Architectural lines of various tones therefore become wrinkle method of brush paintings. Yang’s maximalist overlaps of cityscapes depict the ups and downs of time as the ancient painters represented in their infinitive mindscape.
All in all, what the artist inherits is not simply Chinese art as its symbolic elements or traditional composition, but its mentality and ideology in creation. His belief in contemporary art is not about originating an idea, but setting something in motion gradually throughout the years. Yang never makes easy change; instead he develops and digs further for refinement. As of last year, his techniques has risen ably to create replicas of Song landscape masterpieces such as Travelers Among Mountains and Stream, Wintery Forest in the Snow, an artistic endeavor he is still continuing.