Time Immemorial

4 Mar — 27 May 2017 at the Matthew Liu Fine Arts in Shanghai, China

Time Immemorial. Courtesy of Matthew Liu Fine Arts
Time Immemorial. Courtesy of Matthew Liu Fine Arts
12 APR 2017

Matthew Liu Fine Arts is pleased to present Time Immemorial, the first solo exhibition at the gallery by Shanghai based artist Yang Yongliang. Featuring a selection of recent works in various media, the exhibition will open on Saturday, March 4th with a reception from 4-7 PM and will be on view through Sunday, May 28th, 2017.

Trained in traditional calligraphy and ink and brush painting since a young age and formally studied computer imaging at China Academy of Art, Yang Yongliang has been creating stunning imageries that demonstrate both traditional literati aesthetics and contemporary methods and techniques. Since his early series Phantom Landscape (2006-2007), Yang has developed his signature visual language of digital painting, which allows him to juxtapose a variety of compositional elements and imageries that allude to the ideal of the ancient sages and issues at present. Often presented in the manner and style of traditional ink painting, his landscapes explore both collective history and personal memory. At first sight his works evoke nature imagined and delineated by the literati in pre modern China, yet with closer look, the viewers are startled to realize that the artist deftly replaced the towering peaks and misty valleys with thick layers of identical high-rise buildings, luxuriant trees and plants with construction cranes and electricity towers, and seals and calligraphic inscriptions with map symbols, industrial printed characters and financial charts. By doing this, he addresses the issues of the rapid urbanization that has been taking place in China since the early 1990s, collective cultural identity in the age of total Modernization, and the seemingly unavoidable assimilation in the process of globalization.

The title of this exhibition comes from Yang Yongliang’s newest series Time Immemorial (2016), in which he continues his quest in search of a spiritual home in the nation’s insatiable march through material advancement and architectural obsolescence. Presenting the exuberant urban scape as well as ruins at sites of destruction and construction that inundate mountains and river, this series marks the ten year anniversary of his critically-acclaimed digital landscape. The ruins in Yang Yongliang’s works are not private or personal, rather, they signify a nationwide effort to become part of a global narrative that champions homogeneity and efficiency. Yet through integrating them into the poetic landscape of the literati, Yang subtly suggests that there are hopes to reconcile nature and culture, past and present, personal and collective, artistic and functional, and eternity and transience. Yang Yongliang not only treats photography as an object of appreciation, but also explores the materiality of the medium. In addition to giclee print, works in this series can also be mounted and presented in the form of light box-an exquisite wooden structure with modulated backlighting that sheds on the photographic imageries, inviting the viewers to virtually visit the landscape as they gaze on the paths and small boats.

Works in the exhibition also include Beneath the Sky (2016), a collection of new ink paintings on silver paper. The fine and matte quality of the silver paper accentuates various shades of ink, rendering the painted sceneries ethereal and meditative. While the compositions and imageries of his acrylic works Vanishing Landscape - Snowy Mountains 1-3 (2016) evoke the lofty landscape in pre modern literati painting, Yang Yongliang painted them in a spontaneous and expressive manner that leaves splashes of pigments and brush strokes that resemble those of Jackson Pollack. The exhibition also presents the premier of Endless Streams (2017), a seven-minute video installation that shows a panoramic view of nature overwhelmingly encroached by contemporary urban architectures and construction sites. The pouring cascade and flooding river allows the viewers to fully immerse in this artificial wonderland and experience its dynamics.

Yang Yongliang was born in Shanghai in 1980 and he received a BA from the Visual Communication Department at China Academy of Art in 2003. He has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Matthew Liu Fine Arts, Shanghai, China; Shibunkaku, Tokyo, Fukuoka and Kyoto, Japan; Pearl Lam Galleries, Singapore; Shanghai Gallery of Art, Shanghai, China; Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan; Galerie Paris-Beijing, Paris, France; and at Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, USA. He has been included in group exhibitions at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA; Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China; 5th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia; Museum of Fine Arts of Lille, Lille, France; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia; Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, China, among many others.

Yang’s work has been acquired by numerous institutions, including the British Museum and The Saatchi Gallery, London, UK; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum, NY, Museum of Fine Arts, MA, and San Francisco Asian Art Museum, CA, USA; DSL Collection, Paris, France; The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, and White Rabbit Contemporary Chinese Art Collection, Sydney, Australia; M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong, and HSBC Hong Kong, Shanghai, China. He lives and works in Shanghai, China.