Whitestone Gallery Hong Kong is pleased to announce Views of Water, by the innovative Chinese artist, Yang Yongliang. Trained in traditional Chinese ink paintings, majored in Visual Communication in China Academy of Art in Shanghai, and working as a multimedia artist, Yang Yongliang creates works that meld both traditional art forms and digital technology. Each work in Yang’s contemporary reinterpretation carefully recreates the historical aspects into moving images, transforming the static landscape into an active and energetic state. Yang’s distinct style is deeply rooted in his childhood, growing up in a village near Shanghai, where he was experiencing the changes in the Chinese culture and environment. Through his practice, Yang strives to offer an alternative reading on landscape paintings and draws attention to societal issues such as environmental pollution and rapid urbanization.

For Yang’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, Whitestone Gallery Hong Kong will exhibit a new body of works divided into three parts; a new video project of Views of Water, Yang’s latest VR work, Nine Dragons, which made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival 2019 and will be showing in a gallery space for the first time, and a series of lightbox pieces wherein Yang transformed digital images and developed them onto negative films.

Views of Water is a series of six 8-minute videos, where Yang reconceptualized traditional masterpieces from the Song Dynasty painter Ma Yuan (c1160-1225). Footages of the oceans, rivers, and lakes collected by Yang during his stay in New Zealand were incorporated in these videos. The gloomy scenery with tumbling fogs and rippling waves refers directly back to the history of ancient landscape paintings. Yang employed post-image technology to add atmosphere and motions to the pictures, the subtle manipulation of waterscapes conveys a sense of unease and disturbance, with an undercurrent of global concern of the rising sea level and water provision. Within these works, the artist’s enthusiasm towards Asian art history and his perspective on the current situation are intersecting with each other.

Nine Dragons presents an immersive experience with a flight of East Asian dragons, inspired by the Southern Song Dynasty ink artist Chen Rong’s Nine Dragons (1244), a handscroll painting in which nine dragons soar among clouds, mists, whirlpools, fire and rocky mountains. In Yang’s Nine Dragons, starting with the lure of a whirling pearl, the audience is on a journey through a dragon’s point of view, from above the clouds to underneath the ocean, passing impressive landscapes that are widely pictured in traditional Eastern literature and paintings. As the story develops, a misfortune gradually unfolds. Thereby, Yang expresses his disquiet about the ‘dragon’ as a symbol in Chinese culture, as the initial meaning of this symbol is fading over time. Whereas in ancient times, the ‘dragon’ represents literati spirits and character, yet in modern China, it has gathered an association with good luck and fortunes. Furthermore, a special dragon seat equipped with goggles will allow audiences to fully immerse themselves into the moving images, mind traveling through the mountains while simulating the sensations of sitting on the back of a dragon. Drawn from Chen Rong’s enlivened dragon painting, Nine Dragons invites you to enter into the Song Dynasty, yet modern industrial elements are employed. The artist’s highly detailed and laborious works reinvent the oldest traditions while using the newest techniques.

Currently dividing his time between New York and Shanghai, Yang’s works are included in prominent public collections such as Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; The British Museum, London, UK; Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA; How Art Museum, Shanghai, China; M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong, China; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA; Museum of Modern Art, Paris, France; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA; The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia; San Francisco Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, USA, and The Utah Museum of Fine Arts, USA. Yang has been awarded the 2019 Asia Arts Game Changer granted by Asia Society and nominated for The Global Award in Photography and Sustainability in 2019 and the 40th Anniversary of the Recontres d’Arles, Discovery Prize in 2009.

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Born in 1980 in Shanghai, Yang Yongliang graduated from China Academy of Art in 2003 majoring in Visual Communication. He started experimenting with contemporary art in 2005, exploring the use of various mediums such as photography, painting, video, and installation. Yang Yongliang exploits a connection between tradition and the contemporary, implementing ancient oriental aesthetics and literati beliefs with modern language and digital techniques. His work presents an expanding meta-narrative that draws from history, myth, and social culture playing out in the context of the city and its ever-changing landscapes. He is known for using architectural images as brushstrokes and his depiction of heavy mountain rocks with enriched details draw a faithful reference to Song Dynasty's landscape painting. Urban development gives prosperity to city life, yet it simultaneously imprisons many. Similarly, a centuries-old cultural tradition in China has dignified profoundness, but it is always fraught with stagnation. Ancient Chinese people painted landscape in admiration of the magnificent nature, whereas Yang's works lead us towards critical re-consideration of contemporary reality. In terms of media and content, a strong sense of post-modernism is combined with traditional aesthetics. His works have been collected by prominent public institutes such as the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The artist lives in Shanghai and New York.
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