Singapore—Pearl Lam Galleries is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Chinese artist Yang Yongliang, opening on 2 April, 2016. The exhibition is a blend of moving image, photography, and painting, which showcases the expansive size and scope of Yang’s artistic practice. Through his works, the artist examines cultural and personal memory, highlighting moments of alignment—and discord—between the two.
The main highlight, Yang’s full-length film Fall into Oblivion, will make its Southeast Asian debut at the exhibition. Dressed in kendo armour and chasing after a tripedal raven guide, the protagonist in Yang’s film takes the audience on a journey through a timeless dreamscape. The film’s narrative is influenced by Yang’s reading of Tao Yuanming’s “Peach Blossom Spring”, in which the protagonist chances upon a utopian society detached from the urbane world. The armoured kendo warrior is anonymous and
stands as a solitary figure amidst a busy metropolis. Though dignified in his armour, his mind is self-enclosed. He is alone and detached from the chaos of urban civilisation. The film also engages with what has been referred to as Zhuangzi’s great dream, where the melding of his lucid dreams as a butterfly with his waking life as a human being leads him to question the existence of any sort of reality. The audience is pulled into an immersive experience with the transformation of the gallery space into a dark cave-like enclosure, blurring into Yang’s typical grayscale aesthetic. The man in the armour leads
the audience just as the raven has led him. It is only at the end of the journey that one awakens from oblivion and realises that the answers have already been unfolding along the journey.
An archive room has also been put together with materials and props from the making of the film. Audience members have the opportunity to gain greater insight into the film, to learn about the artist’s conceptual development, aesthetic decisions, and technical considerations that arose behind-the-scenes.
Yang will also exhibit two new mixed media paintings. Although he believes that the future is increasingly moving towards digital media, the artist still values painting as part of his practice. To him, new media represents the rational, as it does not involve the direct physical contact of the artist’s body. On the other hand, painting and calligraphy are highly emotional, arising directly from motions of the body.
After spending nearly two years focusing on developing his film and video works, Yang has returned to the canvas. His choice of medium is telling of his concerns—he paints mainly with a mixture of acrylic and cement, a material closely associated with the urban landscape. Yet the expressive strokes on the canvas tell a different story from the rigid, grey structures they create. Alternating dense and forceful marks with delicate and minimal imprints, Yang turns the idea of a “concrete jungle” on its head, masterfully using cement to build his mountainous forms, introducing us to the medium’s surprisingly fluid nature.
A selection of past digital collage works will also be displayed alongside the new paintings. Yang forges a connection between traditional art and the contemporary world, marrying ancient oriental aesthetics and literati beliefs with the experimental open-mindedness and digital technologies of the modern age. Viewed from up close, Yang’s apparently idyllic scenery reveal mountains, forests and lakes covered with sprawling cranes and skyscrapers. His photographic digital collages begin with his database of documentary urban landscape photographs. Replacing brush and ink with his digital editing skills, Yang creates scenes of great architectonic harmony in his commentary on the uncontrolled rapid urbanisation in China. As such, the world that Yang has so assiduously created, embedded in various disciplines, is one that is intently sensitive to public memory.