Yang Shen

Artist: YANG SHEN 杨深

DOB: 1973
POB: Beijing
Education: Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, Mural Painting Department, 1996
Lives and works: Beijing
No. works in collection: 8
Materials in Archive:
Sketches supplied by the artist for each work
Email correspondence between Yang Shen and research team
References in Library: NA
Brief Bio:
Born in Beijing in 1973, Yang Shen studied at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1996. His work is influenced by an eclectic range of popular culture imagery, from comic books to propaganda posters, from science-fiction movies and pulp fiction to late twentieth century figurative painting, but he is also inspired by the Chinese art history he studied in his youth. Revealing a keen sense of the absurd, Yang’s canvases depict uncanny events taking place in public spaces, including gardens, parks and plazas. His work has been shown in group and solo exhibitions in China, Korea and the United States. Yang Shen lives and works in Beijing.

Artworks

#1 Accession Number: 2018.038
Title: White Rabbit Slide
Date: 2012
Broad Medium: Painting
Specific Materials: oil and acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 155 x 270 cm
Description: Surreal scenario of giant carrots apparently falling from the sky as a girl in Young Pioneers uniform stands watching and a boy drags a giant lettuce leaf towards the eponymous slide, in the form of a giant rabbit. The characters written down the right hand side read ‘bai tu hua ti’ (white rabbit slippery dip).

Exhibition History: NA
White Rabbit Slide (2012) depicts a somewhat nightmarish scenario dominated by huge, phallic carrots. On the right side of the canvas a schoolgirl wearing the white shirt and neck scarf of the Young Pioneers communist youth organisation stands with arms outstretched and eyes closed, as if sleepwalking. In the background, a concrete structure leads to a baleful, giant rabbit’s head and body – the ‘white rabbit slide’ of the title. A loosely sketched male figure drags enormous lettuce leaves towards it, while another smaller boy issues forth an exclamation mark. Yellow characters reading from top to bottom on the right spell out the title like tawdry commercial signage. This enigmatic scene layers childhood memory, dreams, and a multitude of images sourced from advertising, cartoons and popular graphic illustration. L. Guest 2017

#2 Accession Number: 2018.031
Title: Ducks Mocking Sailor
Date: 2016
Broad Medium: Painting
Specific Materials: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 210 x 175 cm
Description: A pensive sailor sits on the edge of a pond, wearing two lifebelts. At bottom left, two cartoon-like black ducks are laughing.

Exhibition History: Ex 19 ‘Supernatural’, 2018
Brief description:
The central figure in Ducks Mocking Sailor (2016) sits pensively amidst a loosely painted landscape. His waist is ringed by two lifebelts, and his flag, attached to a bamboo pole, is a lacy bra. Two black ducks, painted like characters from a children’s cartoon, laugh hysterically, wings flapping and orange beaks agape. A packet of Peony brand cigarettes is opened invitingly, as if in a 1950s advertisement. Yang says there is an element of autobiography and self-deprecation here: the course navigated by the artist is risky and prone to sudden catastrophe, just like that of the mariner. L. Guest 2017

#3 Accession Number: 2018.032
Title: Sailor and Monster
Date: 2016
Broad Medium: Painting
Specific Materials: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 210 x 175 cm
Description:

A uniformed sailor is painted in shades of lime green, viridian and blue. The smoke from his cigarette rises into the sky to form a mushroom cloud, and the theme of death and destruction is echoed in the skull at his feet. He seems oblivious to the orange sea serpent thrusting its head out of the lake with a tiny submarine gripped in its jaws. Loosely painted, linear elements of the background recall the expressive brushwork of the Chinese artists Yang most admires, such as Northern Song Dynasty painter Guo Xi (1020–1090), and modern literati painter Huang Binhong (1865–1955).

#4 Accession Number: 2018.033
Title: Acrobatics
Date: 2012
Broad Medium: Painting
Specific Materials: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 200 x 150 cm
Description: Children perform balancing tricks in a surreal landscape.
Acrobatics (2012) presents an impossible scenario: two children perform acrobatic balancing tricks while their little dog balances a stack of different toys on his nose. They are performing this circus act in what appears to be a courtyard: tufts of grass grow between its pavers, and there are two buildings with blank blue curtains that seem to be painted with a design of marbled meat. In the foreground, bizarrely, the paving is littered by trilobites (extinct marine arthropods), almost as if they have just crawled there to die. The work suggests the impossible juxtapositions of a dream, and the myriad competing activities that take place all day long in any Chinese park.

#5 Accession Number: 2018.034
Title: Workers Exposing Panda Tattoos to Peasants, Soldiers and Intellectuals (not pictured)
Date: 2017
Broad Medium: Painting
Specific Materials: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 50 x 60 cm
Description: workers show their tattoos to people identifiable by their clothing.

#6 Accession Number: 2018.035
Title: Peasants Exposing Tiger Tattoos to Workers, Soldiers and Intellectuals (not pictured)
Date: 2017
Broad Medium: Painting
Specific Materials: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 50 x 60 cm
Description: Peasants in traditional garb show their tattoos to people identifiable by their clothing.

#7 Accession Number: 2018.036
Title: Soldiers Exposing Bat Tattoos to Workers, Peasants and Intellectuals (not pictured)
Date: 2017
Broad Medium: Painting
Specific Materials: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 50 x 60 cm
Description: Soldiers show their tattoos to people identifiable by their clothing.

#8 Accession Number: 2018.037
Title: Intellectuals Exposing Pegasus Tattoos to Workers, Peasants and Soldiers (not pictured)
Date: 2017
Broad Medium: Painting
Specific Materials: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 50 x 60 cm
Description: Intellectuals show their tattoos to people identifiable through their clothing.

Yang’s 2017 series of paintings – Workers Exposing Panda Tattoos to Peasants, Soldiers and Intellectuals; Peasants Exposing Tiger Tattoos to Workers, Soldiers and Intellectuals; Soldiers Exposing Bat Tattoos to Workers, Peasants and Intellectuals; and Intellectuals Exposing Pegasus Tattoos to Workers, Peasants and Soldiers – reference his early exposure to propaganda. At the time the Chinese population was classified in this way; everyone was familiar with the theme of gong, nong, bing (‘workers, peasants, soldiers’), found even in the lyrics of popular songs. Loosely outlined figures recognisable by their clothing – Mao suits and caps for the workers, western clothing and spectacles for the intellectuals, army uniforms for the soldiers and the traditional headscarf of the peasant farmer – flex their muscles on a background of beige impasto. The animal in each tattoo appears as a small, stencilled image in a corner. Yang’s inspiration came from National Day at Ten O’Clock, a comic book published in China in the 1980s, which was adapted from a 1953 anti-spy film of the same name.

Close Menu