Yang Yongliang (born in 1980, Shanghai, China) exploits a connection between traditional Chinese art and the complexities of contemporary urban life, conflating ancient oriental aesthetics and literati beliefs with modern language and digital techniques. Born in Shanghai where he now lives and works, Yang Yongliang was schooled from early childhood in the art of traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy, graduating from China Academy of Art, Shanghai in 2003, majoring in Visual Communication. His groundbreaking use of new media including virtual reality and multi-channel video is informed by Chinese Philosophy and his early training in the inherited traditions of Song Dynasty landscape painting. Of profound cultural significance, these ancient paintings can be considered as proto-immersive environments, inviting the viewer to imagine themselves journeying within the image – an almost virtual reality.
A highlight of the Sydney exhibition is Yongliang's virtual reality work, Eternal Landscape, a 3D landscape evoking the golden age of Chinese painting which the viewer is invited to walk into and explore; encountering animals frequently depicted by the ancient masters, including a deer, a tortoise and a tiger. As discussed in a series of special features in the November 2017 dedicated Virtual Reality issue of Artforum "virtual reality is new again" and "has returned with full force". In Eternal Landscape, Yang extends the possibilities of an ancient artistic genre, employing virtual space to construct a critical reconsideration of tradition and contemporary reality.
Complimented by the virtual reality work, the exhibition also includes Journey to the Dark, a large-scale three-channel video, and Time Immemorial, a related series of Gicleé prints presented on lightboxes. The manner of these works also echoes the technique of Song Dynasty painting into which Yongliang inserts images of contemporary China’s colossal urban development, simultaneously critiquing and paying homage, not only to centuries of artistic tradition, but also China's booming capitalist economy.
Yang Yongliang’s work is included in numerous international museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts Boston, San Francisco; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; British Museum, London; Brooklyn Museum, New York; and the How Art Museum, Shanghai. His work has been exhibited at various international museums and biennials, including Karuizawa New Art Museum, Nagano (2017); Somerest House London (2016, 2013); Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2016, 2011); White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney (2015); Modern Art Museum, Paris (2015); Kunst und Kultur in Neuried e.V (2015); Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan (2015); Daegu Photo Biennale, Korea (2014); Singapore Art Science Museum, Singapore (2014); Moscow Biennale, Moscow (2013); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2012), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2012); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2013). Yongliang will also be included in a forthcoming group exhibition at Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealdn, opening December 2018.