HdM GALLERY London presents Eternal Landscape, a solo show by leading Chinese, multimedia artist Yang Yongliang. It is his first major collaboration with HdM GALLERY and his first solo exhibition in London.
Yang Yongliang has one of the most distinctive practices in the Chinese contemporary art scene. Working with photography, video and VR, he inhabits the subject and aesthetics of traditional Chinese landscape painting and powerfully and acutely reiterates them in the light of the modern world. At first glance Yang Yongliang’s images appear to simply deploy the iconography of Chinese landscape painting; mountains, rivers and waterfalls depicted in ethereal settings, wreathed in mist. They seem to exude the traditional sensibility of that genre – a reverence for the value and harmony of nature. On closer inspection however, the pictorial elements reveal themselves to be formed of, variously, photographic and video collages of dense Chinese cities, manifest in all their frantic and expansive modernity. In this moment of double-take, Yongliang’s work communicates the tension and dissonance in the contemporary Chinese experience, between traditional ideas and forms and the extreme changes wrought by rapid economic development.
Eternal Landscape showcases the essence of Yongliang’s practice through a curated selection of his most important recent works. The highlight of the show Journey to the Dark, 2017 is Yongliang’s greatest video work to date. Employing a three-channel 4K format, the work depicts an epic, nocturnal landscape of steep mountains set against a bright, starry sky. In the quintessential fashion of his work, the landscape comprises a video collage of areas of cities, shot at night. Lights shine and flicker and traffic flows, conjuring the powerful sensation of the city being alive. An ambient soundscape completes the viewer’s immersive experience, pulsing with the beat and sounds of technology and snippets of classical music drifting in and out of hearing.
Immersion in an entirely different world is provided by Eternal Landscape, 2017 is the artist’s first Virtual Reality work. A specialist in commercial 3-D modelling and animation, Yongliang has been adept at using this new technology for his artistic ends. Eternal Landscape places the viewer in a mountain landscape culled from a traditional landscape painting. Humans and their culture are absent, leaving the misty rocks to the deer and the occasional, prowling tiger.
Views of Water, 2018, is a series of digital videos that take the works of Song Dynasty painter Ma Yuan (c1160-1225) as their starting point. Ma’s classic studies of water concentrated on the qualities and properties of water in motion. Yang’s contemporary iterations carefully recreate key aspects of these historic images in digital video but translate the static bodies of water back into an active, animated state. A 21st century perspective informs a further reading of Views of Water, beyond the formal and aesthetic. At this time, perhaps more so than any other, water is becoming an issue of global concern both in terms of water security and sea level rise. Yang’s subtly manipulated waterscapes are imbued with a feeling of disquiet or unrest, remaining at a distance from reality.
Outside, 2006, is a series of photographic works that present expansive views of landscapes seen from within abandoned and soon-to-be demolished factories and industrial spaces from Yongliang’s hometown. As with all his works, the images o er a melancholy and philosophical mediation on the relationship between humanity and our rapidly changing environment.
Yang Yongliang was born in Shanghai in 1980. He graduated from the Shanghai Design School of the China Academy of Fine Art in 1999 with a major in visual communication design. He currently lives and works in Shanghai and New York. His works are widely exhibited in major art galleries and biennales, including the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the UCCA Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, the Moscow Biennale, etc. His works are also featured in numerous art galleries and public institutions. And personal collections such as the Metropolitan Museum (New York, USA), the British Museum (London, UK), the National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne, Australia), the Brooklyn Museum of Art (New York, USA), the Museum of Modern Art in Paris (Paris, France), Franks-Suss Collection (London, UK) and M+Sigg Collection (Hong Kong, China).
Special thanks to Matthew Liu Fine Arts for its support and cooperation in this exhibition.