ARTicle | Yu Yang & Cold Ink

by R. A. Suri
May 22, 2020
Yu Yang, Disorder and in Order, 2014, Ink on paper & wood, 130 x 500 cm
Yu Yang, Disorder and in Order, 2014, Ink on paper & wood, 130 x 500 cm

ARTicle is a new feature curated by 3812 Gallery, presenting must-read articles by curators, scholars and art critics for your weekend digest. 


For the second edition of ARTicle we selected an article for Beijing-based artist Yu Yang written by R. A. Suri, to walk you through Yu's minimal executions and the sensual multiplicity of an Oriental quintessence found in his works.


Yu Yang

Radical Determinents

by R. A. Suri


The current of linear abstraction is one indelible in the contemporary charta, a component signaled by Kandinsky and Malevitch, later a surrogate of the abstract expressionism espoused by Greenspam who envisioned the canvas as a non-compositional field of artistic intervention. The geometric and symmetrical play in concert with highly intellectualized strata has come to divest neo-figurative and primary elements in the relief as a foreground to contemporaneous expression and theoretic which correlate the intellectual acumen of a reductive universal visual dichotomy as being essential in the validity of the act of painting.


Yu Yang, I Want You to Stay No.2, 2015, Colour on recycled materials, 125 x 125 cm


Yu Yang, I Want You to Stay No.2, 2015, Colour on recycled materials, 125 x 125 cm (detail)


The minimal executions of Yu Yang suggest that we return to a pivotal epoch where the refusal or negation of the figurative and compositional colorism employed by the post-20th century avant-garde diffused amid an internationalist foreground, a historical music which sundered the naturalist, impressionist and realist modality of the act of painting. I suggest the act of painting as in fact, the sense of absolute reductive insists that one speculate on the negation of the figurative towards a diminution of the optical: a severance which results in the quintessential fabric of line and hue. As an artist of China, Yu Yang has doubtless an engrained or instilled acknowledgement of the quality of ink, the impact of texture and simplicity of an aesthete often ascribed to traditional leitmotif. The abstract of the global was the once "real" essential of traditional Chinese painting, wherein the inner and intrinsic of the object was made the subject of portrayal, rather than an Occidental relational subjectivism.


The optical gravity was once transfixed with the nuance of ink and water subdued within the constraint of movement of brush and the latent absorbent of paper, the focal itself diffuse, subtle modal counter-acted with the later "intentional" reductive of an Occidental rationale pre-disposed to reflect upon the singularity of line and the "abstract" correlative of semi-geometric configuration. From having become the content, the archaic and seminal abstractionism of Europe (and, later, America) conflicted heavily with the philosophical current vested in the Oriental tradition, most poignantly, with that of China. The sense of essentialist philosophy further engulfs an argument confused, the reductive component in that ascribed to the Orient differs radically from the precursor inherited in a transmutation of sense, an opaque impetus wherein the question of objectivity and linear construct prove ridiculous in the breadth of a spectrum of spiritual kinesis with the innate of the subject, exactly, the essence of things. With the transnational correlative insisted upon in the current climate of trans-global "aestheticism", it is necessary to examine and divest predominant mythological and symbolical typology from the field of "view" in a contemporaneous reading of an artists' creative trajectory.


Yu Yang, Ink Object - TheOverlapping Artistic Conception, 2018, Ink on paper & wood, 80 x 80 x 12 cm (side view)


To place a further accent on the fluidity and omnipresence of the line and linear in the works observed, Yu Yang has delivered a polyvalence which operates from the two-dimensional quality of diffuse contrast on canvas subject to an expression of line in pale reduction in parallel to one another, to more complex spatial correlatives wherein minutiae of plane and geometric configuration merge with the dimensional question of the process of installation. As a precursor, the sheer abstract read as Occidental inspires, while the continual operative scheme of transmutation impacts on the formal aspects of his visual spectrum.


Yu Yang, Ink Object - The Overlapping Artistic Conception, 2018, Ink on paper & wood, 80 x 80 x 12 cm (side view)


In the analytical, we may locate the cultural vestige and enamor the certitude that the contemporaneous in art is in truth the best expression of individual experience, or, occult, the examination of the collective historical experience belonging to humankind. The visceral linear and geometrical configurations do indeed seem to imply that there is beyond the immediate cognitive, an imbued mechanical presence in our mundane existence. The sense of alienation and pedestrian causality inferred in the spectacular aspect of creations which invite, in a passive mannerism, the enquery of a formulae at once reminiscent yet apart from the constructs which impregnate our experiential view, the quotidian of urbanism. The cultural dimension is one of a subjective disposition, one singular in the comprehensive exponent of modal and mechanical elements in dysfunction with the regard of the non-accidental viewer. The dislocation of elements of composition disserve the causal audience and replace the prospect of witness with an intentional provocation to observe the quintessential of line, operative alternation of color as a principal of leitmotif and, moreover, replace the fore of painting with a dimensional alternative view in the act of installation.


Equivocal of absolutism, we may contest the limitations of a non-spectral and a converse static as the author has opted to render in minute contrast the plane of color with the severance of line, and infinitude which excludes the random and neither affords the effluvious given the stark dialectical of physical property in adherence to the primal importance of the line and geometric. Yu Yang is a contemporary artist given to philosophical meditations which transcend the operative moment of intention and are embedded on canvas in a disciplined ordinance which renders sub-verse the "determinant" painting of the seminal Occidental abstractionism while literally dissect with the inheritance of the Occidental "legacy" once mis-read as being abstract enquiry in the visual historical of artistic expression.


Yu Yang, If Tradition Were A Ladder, 2014, Ink on paper & wood, variable size
Exhibited in Cold Ink Art Group exhibition in 2014 in Beijing


In his series of consecutive paintings dating from 2013, we witness a gradation of tone, black to white, with an insistence of varying grey, thus denoting a less rigid philosophical situation, absolutes divest via the ocular presence, a non-figurative delineation of the opacity and spectral, in compositional scheme. The series is complete due to an exacting and unsparing methodology of extreme technical dexterity and proves as a mundane labour towards an extemporal execution within form, the content near void unless we speculate that the gradations thus bespoke origin of concept. As organic an evolution as the conceptual origin, the series continues over later years, the examine the vacuity of depth along the imminence of line and absorption of color: the field suspended by the former and elaborate within the presence of the latter. The physical quality of the presentation if extreme and polemic in nature, affording the observer for little than otherwise a philosophical rumination on the intentions of this modal precursor of the artist and intent, while proving to be an insistent counter-current to the randomness of sporadic line and non-determinant painting as heralded by the abstract expressionist school aforementioned.


The scale of the series is bold and encompassing, while the content an apparent endless apparition of singular instances of line and color, a mosaic obsolete in it's non-irregularity of compositional elements. This deferral, with an entity mosaic with elaborate representational symbolism, opts to serve as a mere panel of observation of the metaphysical extrapolations of the artist beneath such intensive, if not, intrinsic labor. A finite within the infinite, while the tier of plane results in an experimentation of dimension and vertiginous repetition.


Yu Yang, Useless Brush and Ink - Black and White No.1, 2016, Mixed Media, 220 x 160 cm


The spatial aligns with a strong existential inclination, as early installations evoke the decay within the found, re-creations of wood and an assemblage which is made subject to the same linear encryption of content and thematic correlations with concept. Visually simple, they object to visual avoidance given their constituent insistence of a vocal operative of line, on this occasion, object, and unity, composition. Dense and suffocative, the material usage enacts the dynamic assimilation of material rather than paint, while eschewing an exactitude of individual philosophical proportion and mannerism. Different from the gradation or planar phase "diffused" the creation resorts to a more striking sensual chord, the caliber of organic material thus divest of its' original function, role and visual resemblance to an object or tool of machination for the simultaneous exaction of execution and intentional philosophical paradigm. The axiomatic of material presents an alternative visual scope, the spectrum not confined by the literal interplay of painted life in symmetric form, yet resorts to the inclusion of spatial objective and determinant sculptural capture.


Of line and of material combine and altercate as the artist ventures into a bolder employ of color, and equally, spatial mechanics. Further installations evoke the emotive primacy of color in the compositional as he opts for brilliant and vibrant shades that resound with life and intense compositional value. Configured, they serve as the mechanical finite within a non-improvisational fore to the coherent orchestra that serves as the artists' signature. The more complex and spatially profound elocutions of Yu Yang demand the audience intuits the metaphysical principles and exactitude which inspired their conception. These are not decoded nor dislocated objects resurrect as art, rather, chronologically morph of objects in the contingency of abstract reductive instance. Resemblance and reminiscence of the structural horizon and entities of the urban archipelago exist, yet, without determinant, the installations signal a sense of simulacra, as they are unjustifiable objects and written within the vernacular code of contemporary art rather than shallow mimetic. The installations should be divorced from the spectacular and dilated terminology of what has come to constitute Public Art, as their evident subjective enquiry into object-hood and re-iterant abstract quality is pared from the associations of public response and similitude of the architectural or spatial object of urban design.


Yu Yang, Ink Object - Hanging Scroll, 2015, Ink on paper, scroll, 360 x 320 cm


In one creation, the artist comes to experiment with the semantic, an installation which curiously, at five meters by five meters, shows the "utensil" illustration to practice calligraphy known throughout whatever level of education in China, with one radical (stroke) being illustrated and rendered distinct, by a dense layer of black material. As an individual character may be read in multiple meanings, what is trans-vest is the radical itself, as each characters is composed of numerous strokes which determine the literal and "value" of the comprehensive entity of a character. Visually subverse, to illustrate the singularity of one stroke while leaving the "value" uncertain, the character incomplete save for the proposed outline without value appearing in the now rear of the compositional fore. The works suggests a decryption or optical negation of the literary, of the deconstruction of a symbolical representative of Chinese methodological education/pedagogy and acts as a retort on a mannerism obsolete while prevalent. It may not be the conceptual vantage which Yu Yang has enacted which has created this curious exception to an otherwise more coherent current of creations, but the "radical" often denotes the accentuation, or, pivotal in artistic creation, and one returns to the conceptual of limitation(s).


In effect and impact, these singular instances of an exemplary trajectory that experiments with the sheer abstract and a visceral engagement with the spatial, whether spatial record in allegorical time or a concrete vestige of comprehensive material language and it's inherent dialectical truths', serve to denote an artist who remains adherent and resilient in a sincere contest of content/form, form/content. The axiomatic and the morph prove to be nothing of a spectacle beyond the evidence of optical and visual dexterity, thus the creations are divest and find their roots in the sensual object of material caliber, magnitude of scale and correlative of metaphysical thought transfixed in paint. Simulacra, certain, yet devoid of pageantry, the pretext of social engagement and imbued with the diligent lucidity of a kinetic concert of hand, material and mind.


Yu Yang, New Born Zone, 2015, Recycled materials of artistic creation, Variable size


To follow a Descartian position..."the most beautiful of emotions is reason", one might interpret the deliberate visual meditations of Yu Yang as being possessed by a philosophical acumen, and enquiry into the virtuosity of line and diminution of absolutism with the potency of instance and extemporal executions. The radical of concept and context dismembers with occult primacy of the predominant aestheticism of an Occidental historical ontology while allowing, for a moment, the sensual multiplicity of an Oriental quintessence.