Yang Yongliang Makes the Haunting Beautiful

While not directly tied to Halloween or the spookiness of fall, Yang Yongliang's series of photographic collages instill plenty of fear.  Yongliang is able to achieve the look of these images through a convoluted, multi-step process.  First, the artist captures the various elements of the collage and edits them together digitally.  Once the collage is finished, the image is then printed on fine art paper and photographed again with a traditional film camera.  This process, both processed and organic, lends a similarly twinned nature to the images.  On the one hand, they clearly are not real, at least, this is our primary assumption at first glance.  They’re paintings, sketches, something similar.  Upon closer inspection, we then realize that they are in fact real photos, but cut together in improbable but seamless ways.  The analog filter that re-capturing the images on film produces allows those hard, digitized, lines to be blurred, further distancing us from the truth of their composition.

Yang Yongliang, Endless Streams, 2017. Single Channel 4K video, 7’00”, © Yang Yongliang

The truly eerie part of these photos, however, is the manner in which they combine the natural and the man-made.  I am at first drawn to the image’s natural beauty, thinking at first that they are black and white prints of exotic locations I’ve never seen before.  But as that first glance lingers I realize they are not “natural” landscapes, but human-built structures that seem to take on an organic character.  This, of course, is not accidental.  Born and raised in China, Yang comments here on that nation's relationship with nature, suggesting that ultimately we are replacing natural beauty with towering skyscrapers.  This sentiment certainly rings true as someone who lives in New York, for while our air is far cleaner than that of Beijing, our blocks are nevertheless covered more and more with shadow.

The Cliff, 2016. Giclee print on Fine Art paper, 80 x 80 cm  //  Header Photo  - Flooding, 2016. Giclee print on Fine Art paper, 80 x 100 cm