presented by CLAUDE HUDELOT
Born in 1942 in France. Lives and works in France, after many years representing French culture in Japan and China.
Journalist, artistic director of the Rencontres d’Arles in 1988 and 1989.
A singular oeuvre has recently emerged in China. It clashes head-on withthe country’s ancestral culture, the better to subvert it and create a new world of illusions, a vision between dreams and nightmares inspired by the renowned traditional landscape art known as ‘shan shui’. This work is by Yang Yongliang, a young photographer from Shanghai. As he puts it himself, he makes art to criticise reality as he sees it, whereas the old masters would express through their art deep feelings triggered by a natural world which to them seemed permanent. Yang Yongliang’s work goes beyond the notion of pastiche even though humour plays a decisive role in each of his recomposed images. As viewed by his country’s commentators—including the professor Gu Zheng— through its refinement and texture this body of work becomes a ‘photographic shan shui’. As it was for his illustrious ancestors, his priority is composition —a chaotic landscape not of ancient trees, waterfalls and pavilions, but electric pylons, skyscrapers and cars. Returning to long panoramic scrolls and playing with details and sense of scale, Yang Yongliang does indeed represent the new ‘shan shui’. And the miracle happens. To quote Gu Zheng, a ‘horrible charm’ emanates from this unlikely recreation. We only need to take a few steps back to be overwhelmed by true poetry, inspired by the Ancients or by the breathtaking curves of the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Yang Yongliang himself oscillates between sublimated reality and fictional composition. He is part of a tradition insofar as he gracefully displays the distinctive characteristics of shan shui—peaks and valleys, seals, poems, clouds, solids and voids following one after the other to create a time-space integral to this art form—then suddenly submerges us in a hell he calls ‘ghost towns’. For Yang Yongliang is anything but a ‘retro’ artist: his visionary body of work merits its place in contemporary art. The work can also be seen as a cry of alarm triggered by the devastating effects of uncontrolled urbanisation and industrialisation. This adds to its power.
For the first creation of Phantom Landscape I used the title ‘Mountain Water’, a symbolic element in China. This title includes two things literally: one is the city I live in, the other is mountain water (meaning ‘landscape’ in Chinese). The city is the place I inhabit, a place growing with me which contains my memories. A mirage or phantom (city) is a desired state or environment which I have only imagined. Mountain Water (landscape), the imitation of the traditional art from my childhood as well as the art form that is disappearing as the city and I are growing. The birth of the Phantom Landscape does not happen by accident. City and Landscape, I love them and hate them at the same time. I love the familiarity of the city, but more so I hate it growing too fast and invading everything around it at an unexpected speed. I love the depth and inclusiveness of traditional Chinese Art, but more so I hate its non-progressive attitude. I have input this complex feeling into my blood and let it out to form my art work. The ancient Chinese expressed their appreciation of nature and feeling for it by painting the landscape. In contrast, I make my landscape to criticise the realities that my eyes perceive.
Framing by Circad.