Beijing, June 2012 - “Hide” is the first solo exhibition by Tang Yongxiang. On show at Beijing’s Hemuse Gallery are a series of striking paintings in an unreal vein. Their blue hues and layered compositions featuring everyday subjects are compelling – fragments subtracted and re-presented from life in a mode not of concrete perception, but from a perspective more eclectic and conceptual. The lively pictorial relationships Tang creates speak of the artist’s wish for his practice never to stand still.
Tang Yongxiang, Six Colorful Points & Chest, Oil on Canvas, 100x80cm, 2011; Courtesy of the artist
Iona Whittaker: Why is it that you always want to do something new?
Tang Yongxiang: It’s to do with always wanting to get closer to something, and the fact that it’s never enough.
IW: Have you always painted this way, and with this kind of drive?
TY: I don’t like to have a single style, to confine myself to one mode, but some series may share one quality, for example, of being abstract.
IW: You used to paint very realistically – what took you away from this? Why was it no longer satisfactory?
TY: CAFA (Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts) is very traditional. It left me thinking, what do I want? What is my language? I didn’t paint for two years.
IW: These paintings at Hemuse have very fragmented compositions. Where does this perspective come from, and why does it interest you?
TY: It’s related to the way in which your ideas come from ideologies and other things, and about how you define whether something is meaningful or not. It helps me to see myself and to see more clearly, entertaining other possibilities beyond normal vision.
Tang Yongxiang, Barcode, Oil on Canvas, 40x50cm, 2011; Courtesy of the artist.
IW: Are these works, then, products of a stable or an unstable view of the world?
TY: It is stable – it may look unstable, but it isn’t.
IW: Do you feel, or would you like to feel that your work makes some kind of comment on your surroundings, or on contemporary society?
TY: No. Painting should be pure – it shouldn’t be concerned with politics or other things.
IW: This is your first solo show; do you have an impression of people’s reactions to your work?
TY: I feel that as yet, because the work is not fully concrete, if people have particular reactions to it that influence it, that could be a bad thing.
IW: Does seeing the paintings hung together in an exhibition for the first time help you to see them anew, or raise anything you hadn’t noticed before, for example?
TY: Yes, certainly – it’s interesting. The work I am doing now is actually dealing with this. I can tell from the exhibition what the work is lacking.
IW: Has moving to Beijing (in 2007) affected your work?
TY: Yes, because when you first graduate, your circle is different, then you join a big art community, and everything influences you – your friends, the commercial field, etc.
IW: Are these influences always positive?
TY: This actually connects to the question you asked about when I was painting in a realistic manner; when I first got here I sold some of my college works, but I didn’t really like those because I hadn’t yet found my own language. But it was hard, because on one hand I really needed the money, and on the other I knew I wasn’t satisfied with the work. That’s why I wasn’t making works for some time.
IW: How do you begin a painting?
TY: The subject can be anything; maybe at first one doesn’t know what one wants to express, but the process begins to make the connections clear. This way is good because I don’t want to be purposeful, saying first, “This is what I want to do.” I prefer to leave it open. Once some elements are there I can think about it, and back out if I don’t like it.
IW: Do you often abandon a work in this way?
TY: Yes, it can happen.
IW: I notice that a lot of the paintings contain multiple layers, painted over but still visible.
TY: Often I will leave a painting and then go back to it; there can be an interval of a month or more.
IW: There is a predominance of blue hues in this exhibition, and white. Was this intentional? Do particular colours speak to you in different ways?
TY: I just like it, I think!
Tang Yongxiang, Two Side Faces Connected together, Oil on Canvas, 100 x 80cm, 2011; Courtesy of the artist.
IW: Which of these paintings for you personally is the closest to what you are trying to do – the panting that best satisfies your current purpose?
TY: There are two – I like Barcode and Two Profiles Connected.
IW: Which artists do you look to when creating your own work?
TY: There are some I like, though most of them are not painters; I tend to look at installation art. I think it’s very easy for other painters to influence me as my work is not yet fully formed, so I prefer to look at works in other media for inspiration.
IW: What do you feel you are most loyal to in your paintings?
TY: What I am interested in is changes; some people will stick always to one purpose, but I am interested in keeping things moving.
Tang Yongxiang, Like Part of a Woman, Oil on Canvas on Blue Background, 100 x 80cm, 2011; Courtesy of the artist.
IW: Would you say there is an element of humour or light-heartedness in your work?
TY: I would like it to contain humour, but not irony – not for it to be directed at something.
IW: What are your hopes for the future of your creative practice?
TY: I want to keep pushing forward and to continue creating more work.
IW: What are you working on now?
TY: It will be very different; there will be a big change.
ArtSlant would like to thank Tang Yongxiang for his assistance in making this interview possible.