Yang Yongliang


Yang Yongliang was born in 1980 in Shanghai. He graduated from the Shanghai Institute of Design, China Academy of Art, in Visual Communication.

Yang Yongliang was trained in traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy. After he finished his studies in design he began to experiment with photography, video and contemporary ink wash painting. He creates images that blend the spectacle of China’s accelerated city development with fantasy landscapes that evoke traditional Chinese ink works.

On first appearance Yang Yongliang’s works have the compositional arrangement and style of 'shansui' landscape painting. In ‘shansui’ painting the shades and textures of rocks and mountains are made up of light ink strokes or ‘cun’. In Yang Yongliang’s works the surface is rendered with digital motifs, repeated in minute detail to form mountains made of skyscrapers and forests made from power towers or construction cranes. The digital motifs/brushstrokes create a tactile surface that gives the audience the impression of landscape. The audience is enticed by the sublimely beautiful remote mountain scenes, or by the waterfalls that cascade down the slopes of lofty peaks, to initially mistake these works as contemporary versions of traditional Song Dynasty (960-1179 AD) ink paintings.

Yang Yongliang creates his photographs using a digital camera. His many views of the cityscape are used as the building blocks for his works. The computer is his tool. He extends his digital photographic ‘landscapes’ to create video/digital animations. In Yang Yongliang’s video work, “Phantom Landscape”, the viewer encounters what appears to be a landscape painting. The mountains are composed of densely packed concrete buildings. The forest is composed of construction cranes and electric towers, and misty streams flow from contaminated urban waste. The scene that once was the inspiration for ancient poets is supplanted by a congested cityscape, filled with the too familiar concrete towers of modern cities and the atmospheric haze of pollution has replaced natural mists and clouds.

Yang Yongliang also makes a connection with the traditional formats of ink paintings by creating works that are in the shape of fans or hanging scrolls. The compositions have a formality and a similar style compositionally to traditional works. It is a tradition that demands a rigorous set of requirements in the hope of creating the perfect combination of balance, composition, and form.

The artist includes Chinese calligraphy and the red signature stamps (carved seals) that are often printed on traditional works. The red, a cultural significant colour, makes a contrast against the more subdued colours of the photographs and establishes a link to the past. The two works below show how Yang Yongliang has established a connection between his ethereal creations and ancient Chinese works.

“Phantom landscape I, No. 2”, 2006, 60 x 120 cm, Inkjet Print on Fine Art Paper

A painting by Ming Dynasty artist Shen Zhou, 1947

From the series “Heavenly City”

This series depicts a metropolis in the sky. Within the rising clouds are entwined the expressways of an imagined city. The shape of the cloud suggests that there could be a massive explosion. It could be prophetic; an atomic cloud that heralds the destruction of the world. The artist could be commenting on the destructive nature of urban development on the natural environment. The finished results create powerful and contemporary images that speak of the modern world and the concerns of our time.

From the series “Heavenly City”
“Snow City No.3 and 1”, 2009, 64 x 200 cm, Inkjet Print on Fine Art paper

“Viridescence 1”, 2009, 44 x 44 cm, Inkjet Print on Fine Art Paper

This work is in the shape of a traditional Chinese fan.

The video from the “Creators Project” provides an interview with the artist. Yang Yongliang speaks his practice and explains how he goes about making his digital photographs and animations.


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