Artist: SHANG YANG 尚扬
Education: Hubei Institute of Fine Arts, MA Oil Painting, 1981
Lives and works: Beijing
No. works in collection: 1
Shang Yang was born in 1942 in Hubei Province, but his familial origins lie in Kaixian, Sichuan Province (now called Kaizhou). He attended the middle and high schools attached to the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in Wuhan, and then graduated from the art academy in 1965. After working as an editor at the Hubei People’s Publishing House throughout the Cultural Revolution, he returned to the art academy and was awarded a master’s degree in Oil Painting in 1981. He served, briefly, as Vice President of the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in 1989 before being stripped of his post: he had supported the student activists in the civil unrest leading up to the occupation of Tiananmen Square. Later, in the 1990s, he taught painting at South China Normal University, before accepting a professorship at Capital Normal University in Beijing, where he then became the Director. Trained in Soviet-style Socialist Realism, Shang Yang soon developed his own, stripped-back technique of painting that incorporated unusual combinations of found materials. Shang’s work has been shown in group exhibitions in China, Europe and the United States with solo exhibitions in Suzhou (2013), Beijing (2012, 2009), Chengdu (2006) and New York (2018). Shang Yang lives and works in Beijing.
Accession Number: 2017.089
Title: The Dong Qichang Project 38
Broad Medium: Oil and Acrylic/Painting
Specific Materials: oil, acrylic, bitumen on canvas
Dimensions: 212 x 759 cm (triptych)
Description: Triptych, 3-4 mountainous forms, referencing the landscape ink paintings of Ming Dynasty painter Dong Qichang
Exhibition History: NA
Shang Yang’s great theme over several decades has been landscape, as a metaphor for the tension between human society and the natural world. He was once asked why he has spent decades focused on the subject; he answered, ‘Is there anything more important than this?’ In 2002 Shang began to incorporate collaged, printed and digital images into his works, and he commenced working on the Dong Qichang Project. Dong Qichang (1555–1636) was a celebrated Ming Dynasty scholar painter, whose work Shang had stumbled upon quite randomly one day, when he turned the pages of a book in his studio. In Chinese art history, mountains meant many things; in Daoist belief they were the home of the immortals, and a mountain range represented a sacred dragon. Shang’s mountains, unlike the misty peaks with sinuous folds and curves found in literati painting, are scarred, mottled, wrinkled and fractured. Giant, monolithic forms, they loom menacingly on large canvases, dark paint and bitumen juxtaposed against lighter backgrounds. Dong Qichang Project 38 (2011), for example, is a triptych painted with oil, acrylic and bitumen measuring eight metres across. Like other works in the series, it features simplified dark mountain peaks juxtaposed with irregular cuboid shapes that allude to human structures. Shang’s sparing, minimalist approach is evident in the simplicity of the composition and the monochrome palette. Unlike the undulating mountain ranges of the literati painters, Shang’s mountains are often triangular, pointed, volcanic peaks, with an implied threat of sudden catastrophic explosions of flaming lava.