Yang Yongliang isquestioning our economical, environmental and social issues, by foreseeing the devastating effects of unrestrained urbanisation and industrialisation in China and abroad. 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.

The contemporary urban imagery in total decay is always present: the mountains covered by giant skyscrapers in ruins will soon be ooded 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.

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.

For inquiries

    Born in Shanghai in 1980.
    Currently works and lives in Shanghai.

    COLLECTIONS

    Allen Memorial Art Museum, USA
    Arendt Art Collection, Luxembourg
    Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia
    Bates College Museum of Art, USA
    Brooklyn Museum, USA
    Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art – University of Salford, Manchester, UK
    Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki, Greece
    Deutsche Bank, China
    DSL Collection, France
    Fidelity Investment Corp. Collection, USA
    Franks-Suss Collection, UK
    How Art Museum, China
    HSBC Hong Kong, China
    Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon, USA
    Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA
    M+ Sigg Collection, China
    Middlebury College Museum of Art, USA
    Museum of Art and Crafts, Hamburg, Germany
    Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA
    Museum of Modern Art, Paris, France
    Museum of Mankind, Paris, France
    Nevada Art Museum, USA
    Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, USA
    San Francisco Asian Art Museum, USA
    The British Museum, UK
    The National Gallery of Victoria, Australia
    The Rare Books Department of the National Library of France, France
    Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, USA
    White Rabbit Contemporary Chinese Art Collection, Australia

    SOLO EXHIBITIONS

    2019
    Yang Yongliang: Eternal Landscape, HdM Gallery, London, UK
    Artificial Wonderland, Dunedin Pulic Art Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand

    2018
    Salt 14: Yang Yongliang, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, USA
    Journey to the Dark, Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney, Australia
    Journey to the Dark, Whitestone Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan

    2017
    Time Immemorial, Matthew Liu Fine Arts, Shanghai, China

    2016
    Time Immemorial, SHIBUNKAKU, Tokyo, Fukuoka and Kyoto, Japan
    Fall into Oblivion, Pearl Lam Galleries, Singapore

    2015
    YAN, Shanghai Gallery of Art, Shanghai, China
    FT5 Review with Yang Yongliang Film Screening, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan
    Solo Exhibition, Galerie Paris-Beijing, Brussels, Belgium

    2014
    Solo Exhibition, Art Basel Hong Kong, Galerie Paris-Beijing, Hong Kong
    Solo Exhibition, Sophie Maree Gallery, Den Haag, The Netherland

    2013
    The Silent Valley, Galerie Paris-Beijing, Paris, France
    Silent Valley, MC2 Gallery, Milan, Italy
    Moonlit Metropolis, Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong Kong

    2012
    The Peach Blossom Colony, Galerie Paris-Beijing, Paris, France
    The Peach Blossom Colony, LIMN Art Gallery, San Francisco, USA
    The Moonlight, MD gallery, Shanghai, China

    2011
    Yang Yongliang: The Peach Colony , Galerie Paris-Beijing, Beijing
    The Peach Blossom Colony – Yang Yongliang, 18 Gallery, Shanghai
    Yang Yongliang: Phantom Metropolis, Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong Kong
    Solo Exhibition, Window 70th: Yang Yongliang, Gallery Jinsun, Seoul

    2010
    Heavenly City, Galerie Paris-Beijing, Paris, France
    Heavenly City, MC2 gallery, Milan, Italy
    Yang Yongliang and Modern Metropolis Solo show, Nevada Art Museum, Reno, USA
    Landscape – Yang Yongliang Solo Exhibition, My Humble House, Taipei
    Artificial Wonderland, 18 Gallery, Shanghai
    Yang Yongliang, MIFA, Melbourne, Australia
    Seoul International Photography Festival, Seoul, Korea

    2009
    Yang Yongliang Photography Solo Exhibition, Limn Art Gallery, San Francisco, USA
    On the Quiet Water, 45 Downstairs Gallery, Melbourne, Australia

    2008
    Heavenly City & On the Quiet Water, OFOTO gallery, Shanghai

    2007
    Phantom Landscape Series 2&3, OFOTO gallery, Shanghai

    GROUP EXHIBITIONS

    2020
    Les flots écoulés ne reviennent pas à leur source, Abbaye de Jumièges, France
    Group Show, HDM Gallery, London, UK

    2019
    MGM Presents: Hua Yuan Exhibition, MGM COTAI, Macao, China
    Canne XR 2019, Festical de Cannes, Cannes, France

    2018
    Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity, Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, USA
    City, Photo Brussels Festival 03 Edition, Hangar Art Center, Brussels, Begium
    2050. A Brief History of the Future, The Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium and National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, Taiwan
    Trompe-L’Oeil, Sullivan+Strumpf, Singapore
    Inside Outside: A Century of East Asian Landscape 1900s-2000s, Samuel P. Harm Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA
    Shanghai Beat –The Dynamism of Contemporary Art Scene in Shanghai, Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto, Japan
    Altering Home – Culture City of East Asia, 21st Cery Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan
    Worlds Apart: Nature and Humanity Under Deconstruction, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, USA
    Photography Biennale 2018: Photography to End All Photography, Brandts – Museum for Artand Visual Culture, Odense, Denmark
    Object, The British Museum, London, UK
    Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota, USA
    Rebuild Utopia, OCT Art & Design, Shenzhen, China
    Beyond Brush and Ink: The Multiplicity of Eastern Aesthetic, China Art Museum, Shanghai, China
    CHFILL Art Space, Stockholm, Sweden
    Art of the Mountain: Through the Chinese Photographer’s Lens, China Institute Gallery, New York, USA
    Inky Bytes: Traces of Ink in the Digital Era, Museum of Arts and Crafts – MKG Hamburg,
    Germany

    2017
    Art is Science, Karuizawa New Art Museum, Nagano, Japan
    40 Years of Chinese Contemporary Photography, Three Shadows Photography Art Center, Beijing, China
    China in Motion, Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Annecy Museum, Annecy, France
    Energy Filed, Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, China
    The Five Moons, Return of the Nameless and Unknown, PyeongChang Biennale, Pyeongchang, Korea
    Prix Pictet: Disorder, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, USA
    Land and People, Cairns Regional Gallery, Queensland, Australia
    Geo-Civilization: Land and Man in Contemporary Photography in China,
    Geological museum and the City Gallery, Ramat Hasharon, Israel

    2016
    Jimei Arles Photography Festival, Xiamen, China
    An Contemporary Art Experiment for Fu Lei, Zhoupu Art Museum, Shanghai, China
    Après Babel, Traduire, Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, Marseille, France
    Beijing Independent Film Festival, Li Space, Beijing, China
    Humanistic Nature and Society (Shan Shui) – An Insight to the Future, Himalayas Museum, Shanghai, China
    Ink Remix: Contemporary art from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, Museum of Brisban, Brisbane, Australia
    Art-On Cascina, Festival di Arte Pubblica, Cascina, Italy
    Shan Shui Within, Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, China
    China: Grain and Pixel – 150 Years of Chinese Photography, China Cultural
    Center, Brussels, Belgium
    Another Landscape, Yang Art Museum, Beijing, China
    Prix Pictet: Disorder, Municipal Gallery of Athens, Athens, Greece; Somerest House, London, UK
    Ink Remix: Contemporary art from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, UNSW Galleries, Sydney, Australia

    2015
    Prix Pictet: Disorder, Musée d’Art Moderne da la Ville, Paris, France
    Grain and Pixel, Shanghai Center of Photography, Shanghai, China
    Copyleft: China Appropriation Art, Power Station of Art, Shanghai, China
    Shanghai Ever, Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, China
    Bizzarreland – Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Photography, Dadi Art Museum, Hefei, China; Kunstraum Villa Friede, Bonn, Germany
    Humanistic Nature and Society – An Insight into the Future, 56th International Art
    Exhibition of La Viennale di Venezia, Palazzo Flangini, Venice, Italy
    China8 – Contemporary Art from China, für Kunst und Kultur e.V., Bonn, Germany
    Aandacht! Aandacht! – Stormopkomst Festival, De Warande, Turnhout, Belguim
    1st Overclock Festival, Espace Nova-Velaux, Velaux, France
    State of Play, White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney, Australia
    Ink Remix: Contemporary art from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, Canberra Museum and Gallery, Canberra, Australia
    Dislocation: Urban Experience in Contemporary East Asian Photography, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, USA
    2050. A Brief History of the Future, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Brussels; The Louvre, Paris, France

    2014
    Human Landscape, Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney, Australia
    Art & Arcade, MU Strijp-S, Eindhoven, Netherlands
    Outside the Lines – New Art From China, RH Contemporary Art, New York, USA
    Tradition-Reversal, “Sarajevo Winter” the 30th International Festival of Sarajevo, Collegium Artisticum, Sarajevo, Greece
    Aura of Poetry, Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, China
    1st Xinjiang International Art Biennale, Urumqi, China
    Phantom City, Rotorua Museum, Rotorua, New Zealand
    In the absence of Avant-garde reading, 798 Art Factory, Beijing, China
    5th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan
    Origins, Memories and Parodies – 5th Daegu Photo Biennale, Culture&Arts Center, Daegu, South Korea
    Contemporary Photography in China 2009-2014, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, China
    China’s Changing Landscape, Nordiska Akvarellmuseet, Skärhamn, Sweden
    4th Singapore International Photography Festival, Singapore ArtScience Museum, Singapore
    Babel, destiny of a myth, Bibliothèques de Pantin, France
    Staging Encounters – Ten Years of Chinese Contemporary Photography 2005-2014, Lianzhou Foto, Lianzhou, China
    Hohe Berge, fließendes, Chinesischen Kulturezentrum Berlin, Berlin, Germany

    2013
    DE LEUR TEMPS, ADIAF(Association for the International Diffusion of French Art), Art Center, The Banana Hangar Nantes, Nantes, France
    Occupy Utopia, Holb�k, Denmark
    How Far Away is the Horizon? Copenhagen, Denmark
    5 Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Space-time / Main Project, Moscow, Russia
    123b4, Exhibition with works-donations from the Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki-SMCA (Warehouse B1,port), Thessaloniki, Greece
    New Ink An exhibition of ink art by post 1970 artists from the Yiqingzhai collection, Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery, Hong Kong
    European Media Art Festival 2013 – Artbox, Stadtbibliothek Osnabrueck, Germany
    Et la Chine s’est éveillée…, Chapelle de la Visitation, the contemporary art space of Thonon-les-bains, France
    Stad in Beeld, Beeld van een Stad, Stedelijk Museum Zwolle, Zwolle, The Netherlands
    Venti d’oriente, Al blu d prussia Gallery, Naples, Italy
    2013 Changwon Asian Art Festival, Sungsan Art Hall, Changwon, Korea
    Dreamers, AlexandFelix | Alessandro Lupi | Yang Yongliang, Palazzo Tagliaferro contemporary culture center, Milan, Italy
    Landmark: The Fields of Photography, Somerset House, London, UK
    Babel, Botanique, Brussels, Belgium

    2012
    The Printed Image in China, 8th-21th Century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
    A Sprinkle of Salt – Exhibition of Shi Zhiying / Yang Yongliang, MOT ARTS, Taiwan
    Babel, Palais de Beaux-Arts, Lille, France
    The creators project, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China
    Time Catcher, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
    Conceptual Renewal – Short History of Chinese Contemporary Photographical Art, Si Shang Art Museum, Beijing, China

    2011
    4th Fotofetival Mannheim Ludwigshafen Heidelbery, Mannheim, Germany
    Silent Picture: Dai Mouyu Sun Yu and Yang Yongliang, FQ Projects, Shanghai
    The End of the Brush and Ink Era: Chinese Landscape, True Color Museum, Suzhou, China
    Art Mia Living group show, Art Mia Gallery, Beijing
    Open: exhibition of new generation, My Humble House, Taipei
    “ollectif Generation, The Librairie Auguste Blaizot, Paris
    Biennale of Photo in Alessandria, Alessandria, Italy
    Post Traditions: Enlarge the Carve, Shanghai Duolun Musuem of Modern Art, Shanghai

    2010
    3×3, Crossing Art Gallery, New York, USA
    2010 Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, ddm warehouse, Shanghai
    Digital Generation, Galerie Paris-Beijing, Beijing
    Multiple Visions a group show with Chu chu, Liu Ren, Liu Ke, Yang Yongliang, Epsite Beijing
    Will to Height – Contempotary art exihibition, Epsite Shanghai
    Urban Utopia, Charly Bailly Contemporary, Geneva, Switzerland
    China Soul: Maleonn, Yang Yongliang and Zhang Dali, Magda-Danysz Gallery, Paris

    2009
    Scene-A dialogue with space & time, River South Art Center, Shanghai
    Under construction-Photography on the EXPO 2010 Shanghai, Pudong Library, Shanghai
    China Avant Garde – Landscape in Transit Han Bing, Yang Yongliang & Zhang Wei, Limn Art Gallery, San Francisco, USA
    City of Phantom Visions, OFOTO Gallery, Shanghai
    Drama/Stage, Urban Photography in Shanghai, Liu Haisu Art Museum, Shanghai
    Photo Beijing, The Agricultural Exhibition Centre of China, Beijing
    2nd Thessaloniki Biennale, Thessaloniki, Greece
    40th Anniversary of the Rencontres d’Arles, Discovery Award, Arles, France
    H&R Block ArtspaceProject Wall, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas, USA
    New Chinese architecture, Institute Cervantes, Beijing

    2008
    Two Points: 2008 Chinese Contemporary Art, Palazzo Frisacco, Tolmezzo, Italy
    Stairway to Heaven, Bates College Museum of Art, Maine USA
    FOTO OFOTO, OFOTO Gallery, Beijing
    Artificial Nature, MOCA ARTLAB, Shanghai
    Collision Part I – New Classic: Yang Yongliang & Gao Feng, FQ Projects, Shanghai
    Material Link – A Dialogue Between Greek and Chinese Artists, MOCA, Shanghai, Athens
    Collision Part II – TU LONG JI: Installation by Yang Yongliang, FQ Projects, Shanghai
    Shanghai-urban public-Space, Hamburg, Germany
    Contemporary Chinese Art, Limn Gallery, AQUA Art Miami, Miami
    Mixed Maze, Red Mansion Foundation, London

    2007
    Art Now 2007, Gyeonggido Museum of Modern art, Ansan, Korea
    2007 Pingyao International Photography Festival, Pingyao
    Celebrating, Epson Imaging Gallery, Shanghai, Beijing

    AWARDS

    2019
    Asia Society, Asia Arts Game Changer Awards – Awarded

    2019
    Prix Pictet, The Global Award in Photography and Sustainability – Nominated

    2009
    40th Anniversary of the Rencontres d’Arles, Discovery Prize – Nominated

    PUBLICATIONS

    2017
    Yang Yongliang: Time Immemorial, Matthew Liu Fine Arts

    2013
    Yang Yongliang: Artificial Wonderland, Galerie Paris-Beijing

    2012
    Yang Yongliang: New Landscapes (Chinese Contemporary Photography), David Rosenberg
    Yang Yongliang: Paysages, David Rosenberg

    • MEET YANG YONGLIANG

    The Mirror of Time
    By David Rosenberg, May 2011

    Yang Yongliang walks through his city – Shanghai – and photographs the buildings that he will then use to compose his “Phantom landscapes”, his “Heavenly Cities” and “Artificial Wonderlands”; these series of digital “pictorial” works whose visionary power and plastic coherence have quickly earned him unanimous international recognition.

    He is above all a walker, a surveyor. In this he joins the line of the pioneers of modernity, such as the photographer Eugene Atget (1857-1927), a large part of whose work consisted in keeping a kind of inventory or visual archive of the architectural forms that surrounded him, both those that were about to disappear and those that were just appearing. He was not an observer of a serene and impassible landscape, but rather of continuous upheaval. Thus his photographic images could not be conceived, according to him, without this double determination: the mobility of the artist, and the city as the field of a visual, philosophical and artistic investigation. These two characteristics are also found in the works of Yang Yongliang.

    Strolling, wandering, collecting: his attentiveness and the shifting outlines of his gaze also call to mind Walter Benjamin’s “Passages”, where he writes thus about Paris: “Even to the flaneur, the city – be it that where he was born (…) – is no longer native soil. It represents to him the stage for a performance.” This line, this lineage also reaches back to the surrealists, to Aragon, whose visual as well as poetic work “The Peasant of Paris” traces back the genesis of the complex feelings that the transformation of the Parisian landscape inspire in him.

    For these idlers, these gleaners of perceptions, thoughts and fragmentary affects, the “now” of the image contains the “once upon a time”. The traces and remanences are at the heart of their concerns and, if they compose their works using the visible, it is as much in order to decrypt that which it unveils as that which is left concealed within it. Seeing is a way of thinking, and thinking is another way of seeing. It isn’t just about simply recording, but as the American photographer Paul Strand (1890-1976) explained, it’s about working with a “machine” for inventing new ways of seeing.

    Their gaze is a prism whose facets diffract not only light, but also time and history. Through this dialectic seizure of present and past, what emerges is a vision of the future or of possible futures. “Each era dreams of the next”, wrote the historian, Jules Michelet.

    In the works of Yang Yongliang, the stroll is not limited to a physical walk amid the urban landscape. It is also a mental walk through images of the history of art. It is from this double advance – through an upset and evanescent physical space as well as a stable, impassible mental observation – that this present body of work is derived.

    “The city,” he explains, “is the place where I live, a space that evolves with me and which contains my memories. A mirage or ghost-city is the environment towards which I reach out, but it only exists in my imagination. The water of the mountain (the landscape) suggests the imitation of the traditional art forms of my childhood, which have gradually disappeared as the city and I have evolved. The birth of the Ghost Landscape is not an accident. The City, the Landscape – I love them and hate them at the same time. If I love the city for its familiarity, I hate it even more for the staggering speed at which it grows and engulfs the environment. If I like traditional Chinese art for its depth and inclusiveness, I hate its retrogressive attitude. The ancients expressed their sentiments and appreciation of nature through landscape painting. As for me, I use my own landscape to criticize reality as I perceive it.”

    The megalopolis and its new technologies are seen as a biotope of images and art; the contradictions, tensions and mutations of the real are the motor of creation; the remanence of traditional culture and the emergence of new ways of thinking that polarize contemporary artistic conscience: this, in brief, is what characterizes Yang Yongliang’s work.

    But getting back to the profound connection between the artist and the city of Shanghai, it should be stressed that it is not so much this particular city, with its characteristics, its “soul”, its history and aesthetics, that interests him. The issue that is at the heart of Yang Yongliang’s work is the essence of “building” – the grey seriality, the repetition of the same, the proliferative and uncontrolled phenomenon of excessive urbanization, and the antagonistic relationship to nature which underlies it. In a sense, he is like those scholars whose pictorial work was based more on a conception and a feeling of nature than on direct perception and observation.

    Another paradox is that the artist uses the photographic medium and the resources of modern technology to produce these “paintings”, whose texture and whose rules of composition are borrowed directly from Shan Shui, the traditional landscape art of China, an art in which the image’s moral and contemplative component is ultimately more important than its aesthetic quality.

    On the one hand the artist uses this open reflection on the world, while on the other there is a critical reexamination of his medium of choice as well as the pictorial heritage in which he was trained, making Yang Yongliang a contemporary artist in the full meaning of the term.

    The critical potential contained in his works may not, however, be reduced to ecological clichés or to the righteous feelings of a guilty conscience deploring the loss of the link between man and nature. There is in them a true visionary breath, a spectacular sense of composition that allows the artist to play with a wealth of almost imperceptible details without ever losing sight of the whole of the landscape of which they are a part.

    Faced with the accumulation of skyscrapers and oversized buildings, faced with these pharaonic construction sites, these mountain-cities or mountains of cities, one thinks of the German Expressionists and Dadaists, such as John Heartfield or the brilliant Belgian engraver, Frans Masereel – who, it so happens, also spent time in China – both major critics of the dehumanized modern megalopolis. One also thinks of Altdorfer’s battle scenes, of Brueghel’s Tower of Babel, and of Bosch’s apocalypses. Nevertheless there is a notable distinction: In Yang Yongliang’s works there is no trace of the individual, not a single human figure in sight.

    What does this mean? Is there no actor, no author? Does the city reproduce itself by itself indefinitely? Does it proliferate along the lines of uncontrollable metastases? Or should we seek the answer in the seals and inscriptions in red ink that adorn these rolls of paper? Seen from afar, these signs inevitably recall the texts and marks of collections that adorned ancient paintings. But here we find an accumulation of bar codes and the logos of multinational corporations. It is these abstract entities that sign the landscape we have before our eyes, they are the co-authors of these latent images that the artist makes visible and records.

    Construction and destruction, inevitable cycles: it is a total show that is both strange and familiar. We are torn between the limbo of dreams and naked reality. The essence of the megalopolis is revealed here: it is a colossus with feet of clay. Here a giant wave sweeps away everything in its path, there buildings stand half-submerged, elsewhere disturbing steam clouds completely cover the surroundings, buildings teeter on their foundations, or else dramatic and devastating explosions shatter a once familiar and livable world into pieces.

    Only from a certain distance is it possible to account for these invisible and antagonistic energies whose tumultuous interlacing sometimes draws majestic and unique shapes, and sometimes draws accumulations of discordant structures. It is these energies that open up space or lead to its saturation; these energies which generate fluid and ample trafficpatterns or lead to fatal gridlocks. Hence the “distant” and withdrawn point of view from which the artist builds, directs and composes his “paintings”.

    Premonitory works? Yang Yongliang’s landscapes linger patiently: they are simply waiting for the world to end up resembling them. There is a profound truth in them which gives them a head start on their model. The mimetic relation between the real and the image – between the model and its double – is reversed. It is like Picasso explained to Gertrude Stein, whom he had just painted, that if the painting did not look like her, she would end up looking like the painting.

    The images emerge. They appear like a ghost ship on the shimmering surface of the deep waters of the unconscious. The conditions conducive to the breakup of the spirit and to the fragmentation of sensitivity must be fulfilled so that both the gaze and the world can be transformed and can complete their reconstruction.

    Whether it is patiently meditated and planned in its structure as well as its execution, or whether it is the unpredictable consequence of an instinctual and uncontrolled energy, the picture – the oracle – only takes place and achieves its full significance in relation to reality, going beyond mere likeness or verisimilitude. It is at this price that it acquires its illuminating power of anticipation. The picture – the big picture – is the mirror of time. In it are reflected the startling landscapes of Yang Yongliang, which are like the memory of the future.

    Yang Yongliang’s Visionary Landscapes
    By Jan Stuart

    Yang Yongliang was born in China in Jiading (an area near Shanghai ) and as a young student studied traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy before attending the Shanghai Fine Art Institute, where he specialized in design beginning in 1996. In 1999 he attended the China Fine Art Institute, Visual Communication Department, Shanghai branch.

    In 2005 he started his career with the stated goal of “creating new forms of contemporary art, which he has done using photography and digital manipulation. Yang’s new visual effects are a critique on the breath-taking, frightening pace of urbanization in modern China. China’s massive population shifts into urban centres threaten the continuation of a traditional, agrarian and community-based lifestyle and point to how little time individuals have to explore or enjoy nature. Agrarian life is being replaced for many citizens by the throbbing pace of urban life and all that it entails. A new emphasis on the “individual” instead of the family unit and on personal economic gain has fostered a new lifestyle that brings with it a kind of pseudo-anonymity as people crowd together and live in monumental skyscrapers where occupants seldom know their neighbours or have family. The buildings in modern cities are cut off from natural surroundings. 


    Yang Yongliang’s digital manipulations are clever inversions and subversions of the images created by Song dynasty painters. His works are attractive and possess a layer of romantic beauty with the impression of mists, open water, and towering mountains, despite the fact that these images are created by cold, harsh symbols of urban life such as skyscrapers. By making his works “beautiful” they are much more than a mockery of modern life. Instead they subtlety pose the difficult question of whether urban life can be simultaneously loathsome and threatening of the established order, while still perhaps possessing it own kind of intrinsic beauty and desirable lifestyle. Yang’s riffs on Southern Song landscapes are powerful because the paintings he takes as his paradigms were long regarded in China as a sublime expression of nature’s beauty and mystery. Now we are left to ask whether Yang’s images of cityscapes are intended as expressions of urban beauty or the terror felt by relentlessly urban encroachment?

    Yang’s work forces us to ponder China’s modernization.The artist comments on his own work saying: “City and Landscape, I love them and hate them at the same time. I love the familiarity of the city, more so to hate it growing too fast and invading everything around it an unexpected speed.” He also wrote, “I love the depth and inclusiveness of [the] traditional Chinese art, more so to hate its non-progress[ive] attitude. I have input this complex feeling to my blood and lift it out to form my artwork. Ancient Chinese expressed their appreciation of nature and feeling for it by painting the Landscape. In contrast, I make my Landscape to criticise the realities in [before] my eyes.”

    Jan Stuart, Keeper of Asia at the British Museum. Adapted from the British Museum’s website Collections Online entries for the Museum’s acquisitions by Yang Yongliang (2008,3012.1 and 2008,3012.2)