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These works are dedicated to those who live with hope in our changeable world.

-Yang Yongliang

In this golden autumn season, contemporary artist Yang Yongliang has returned to Matthew Liu Fine Arts five years after his first show presenting the first color series of his iconic digital artworks Imagined Landscapes to the public. Created during 2020/2021 Imagined Landscapes illustrates Yang Yongliang's idiosyncratic view of a world fighting a global pandemic. This series includes eight-color digital images created by Yang Yongliang during his quarantine in New York, as well as four black and white images he created before the outbreak and two dynamic videos that have been digitally synthesized.

 

In this exhibition, we see an artist’s mental upheavals reflected in his work, as Yang struggled to understand our turbulent times. Yang’s journey took him from black and white to color, and from flat to dynamic perspectives. In the works on display, Yang’s mental metamorphosis is on display, as his meditations on the pandemic led to experimentations with new forms and styles. His goals as an artist have changed, starting with a desire to express his individuality and moving towards creating beacons of hope for the world. As Tao Yuanming once wrote: "From a lengthy pose, I have returned to nature," like a hermit returned to an utopian state of mind, attaining to the final presentation of a brilliant vision. Discussing these new works, Yang Yongliang told us: "When I look at my past works today, they seem too heavy." He has tried to imagine a new place, a place of warmth and joy, a place full of color. On a personal level, Yang sees this new series exploration is a breakthrough in his understanding of art under the impact of a pandemic year, full of changes. As the ancient Chinese poem says, Yang ‘beheld a high mountain with awe,’ and discovered an aesthetic breakthrough accordingly.

 

Yang Yongliang grew up in the 1980s in old town Jiading. He started to study traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy as a child for more than a decade. In the late 90s, Yang Yongliang left his hometown for school, and moved to the center of Shanghai. He took countless photographs of Shanghai in the early 2000s because Shanghai was changing so rapidly. As much as he admired the high-rises, Yang Yongliang wanted to capture the traces of broken houses and construction sites before they were gone, like his hometown. He deconstructed these pictures using photo editing software on a small CRT monitor, rearranged them, and composed his first digital Chinese landscape painting. When Yang Yongliang saw the first printed copy of a digital handscroll in 2005, his retro memories reappeared. Over a decade of practice, the digital landscape image became Yang Yongliang’s iconic visual language. His skill set matured as digital imaging techniques progressed. The world he created has become a contemporary yet timeless realm, in dialogue with the abundant, hyper-realistic nature depicted in Northern Song Dynasty Chinese landscape paintings.  

 

Yang Yongliang has a reputation for monochrome digital imaging works. This exhibition presents his first attempt at colorful landscape explorations; reminiscent of the Ming Dynasty master Lan Ying, Yang depicts pine trees, bamboo, fantasy twisted rock forms, and sometimes a tiny person sitting in the pavilion is found in his world. Yang Yongliang's iconic digital landscape images have discovered a new prospect for traditional Chinese painting related to our fragile planet. These digital works of art depict the beauty of mountains and rivers, interpret the splendor of cities, and remind people of the past societies that have been washed away by the constantly forgotten stories and arbitrary movements in history. After partaking of his distinctive vision, audiences will be able to purify their consciousness, re-establishing a connection with the natural world around them.