Yang Yongliang is questioning 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.
Vanishing Shore is an experimental narrative film following up two runaway children’s journey to find the ocean. It is a story about a separation, exploring the deep bond and delicacy between the two exile siblings. One moves forward without looking back, the other hesitates at every crossroad.
Young Muyi, caused deaf by his ruthless father, gets beaten up for climbing up a tree to see the world outside. With the help of his sister Pearl, they break out of the house. Pearl wanted to pick up the house key that Muyi had left behind. But when she gets near the house and sees their father chopping down the tree, she gives up.
Along their journey into the wild, Muyi falls in love with the landscapes, and Pearl learns to overcome her fear of water. At her happiest moment, she meets Neo, a boy of her age who seems to have a perfect family. Ever since they have to part, Pearl dreams about home, and about her father. Neglecting Pearl’s feelings, Muyi becomes inseparable with Puppy, a dog that followed their ways. Pearl thinks Puppy is a wolf, and so she refuses to get on the boat with them when they all arrive the shore. The two kids can’t convince each other, so they start claiming, and eventually fighting for their only backpack. Before loosing the battle, Pearl throws away Muyi’s favorite whistle. A furious Muyi rows the boat out into the ocean, leaving Pearl calling him at the shore.
Thousand Miles of Mist is Yang’s first hand scroll in color. The composition of work pays tribute to the Song Dynasty Chinese landscape painter Wang Ximeng’s A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains. In Yang’s reimagination, he portrays a surrealist city under massive construction, and swept by a sand storm.
In Glows in the Arctic, a development from Glows in the Night, a 2-channel video work shown at Sullivan & Strumpf Sydney in 2021, Yang provides audiences with an immersive experience that recalls the experience of flying over a big city at night, surrounded by dramatic mountain ranges and the mystical Northern Lights. This sprawl of habitation is like a human anthill, glimpses into the lives of the anonymous inhabitants of this megalopolis. It could be anywhere in the contemporary world. The video work reveals the essential paradox at the centre of Yang Yongliang’s practice: the seductive allure of urban modernity and the simultaneous knowledge of its fragility.