Platform China Hong Kong, in collaboration with chi art space, presents Form – Yang Maoyuan’s Secret, a solo exhibition by Yang Maoyuan that gathers some of his earlier works with new commissions.
Including a selection of sculptures, resembling ancient Greek and Roman sculptured heads, drawings and works on paper, figurines in clay, and with a specially fabricated wallpaper running through the exhibition, the project engages with art history, the impact of it on today’s culture, and the discussions thus emerging between Eastern and Western traditions.
Select paper works show an attempt to recreate the backdrop of the artist’s studio, being presented as collages. Cue is taken from the pattern of the wallpaper, juxtaposed with photos and images portraying faces, profiles, sculpture heads and snapshots from his travels. Drawing from his artistic and personal excursuses, they illustrate studies of roundness, a aesthetic concept extensively analyzed by the artist as deeply resonating with an idea of harmony that not only recalls oriental philosophy, but also canons of proportion as expressed by Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. The images from his travel show how certain life experiences have affected his interest and thinking: the discovery of a forgotten civilization buried under the Taklimakan desert has in fact been of strong inspiration for many of his installation works.
Yang Maoyuan chooses elements from his academic experience, the greco-roman heads and busts that were part of his art education in China, and presents here six original heads in marble and bronze that integrate with newly created figurines in ceramics. He has grounded and polished the faces, noses, lips and ears of the classical sculptures to a blurred roundness, as an attempt to re-interpret the meaning of these Western symbols through Eastern eyes. By altering and modifying, the artist not only mines the complex and mixed emotions of his academy years, but also reaches towards something new and profound. The works in ceramic present heads facing round bowls. The choice of clay relates to the origin of humanity, an earthly element, while the bowl recalls, once again, the round element.
Amplifying the message of the works and enveloping the space of the exhibition itself, the patterned wallpaper originates from Qing Hua Ci — the blue and white porcelain — and represents a certain motif that was specifically realized by Chinese craftsmen to please European buyers’ taste. Charged with the weight of history and the interconnections between cultures, the pattern is repeated as a mantra throughout the exhibition, drawing content together positioning it within an open dialogue across space and time, between traditions and personal traumas, theory and pragmatism. By way of objectification, Maoyuan combines elements of his personal experience with the concepts intrinsic in these works so to provide a journey through his artistic experience.
The exhibition in fact recalls a painting by the artist completed in 2014: “Studio N1”. This work depicted a small room covered in blue and white wallpaper with works on paper hanging high above and heads and torsos of Greek and Roman figures piled up on the floor. Those familiar with Yang Maoyuan’s work will appreciate the continuity of his message, while for those encountering him for the first time the exhibition should read as a striking combination of pieces borrowing from Chinese and traditional culture to challenge the Western aesthetic perspective.
- Yang Maoyuan, Face, 2009
- Yang Maoyuan, Aerippa Giovane 1/8, 2007