Phantom City: Interview with Yang Yongliang

- By Sophie Arni


Yang Yongliang (b. 1980, Shanghai) is a multi-media artist working in painting, photography, video and virtual reality. His long career has taken him from traditional Chinese ink painting to digitally collaging photographs of Shanghai. Through his multi-channel videos and photographic compositions, he keeps referencing to North Song Dynasty paintings. His work has been exhibited in countless galleries museums around the world, with solo exhibitions in the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum and the Nevada Museum of Art. His works are in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and Saatchi Gallery amongst many others. For GAD's inaugural issue Street Futures I had the pleasure to interview Yang Yongliang and get his views on the term 'street'.

The following is an extract of the interview. For the full interview, please refer to GAD's Issue 01 Street Futures. Shop here.

Sophie Arni: By mixing modern cityscapes with traditional Chinese painting compositions, your work hints at two belief systems: Capitalism and Taoism. Do you think Shanghai holds a dichotomy between spirituality and consumerism? Yang Yongliang: That’s a big question. I was personally affected by the spiritual versus the commercial aspect of my work when I was working with commercial design. After two years, it became too much for me. I wanted to return a purer and freer form of creation.

My hometown is Shanghai, and I can definitely feel a conflict between the quiet peaceful landscape that I paint and the immediate chaos of the city. The conflict between the peaceful culture of ancient times and the anxiety of global capitalism is something that can be felt but is not obvious in Shanghai. There isn’t a huge clash between tradition and modernity here because a lot of Chinese Buddhist and dynastic history has been lost. There hasn’t been any that many wooden buildings or temples preserved. China is experiencing a fast development today but there is a weak link to its long history.


#shanghai #eastasia

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