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Curator: Lu Mingjun


Tang Yongxiang employs a ‘rigorous’ approach to a set of questions connected to his individual practice including – positive and negative space, concealment and elaboration, contour and form, collage and depth, narrative and antinarrative – the possibilities of painting are coaxed onto the canvas from out of these relationships. Working with these issues, his practice deals with questions related to the determinacy of a given rule, looking to move from a simple cause and effect relationship to yield further elements of chance and contingency for the painter.

The artist relies primarily on intuition, aspiring to set free a heightened level of unpredictability into his compositions. When each moment of chance is realized, the departure from existing forms of perceptual experience is never absolute. Hence, a persistent method framed by the strict abidance to a set of codes, which is used to guide and inflect his experience within the daily exercise of painting. In the last two years, the complexity of each canvas has been increasing. He is less liable now to the compositional constraints of an image or restricted by the fixity of a painting method. During the last moments of a painting, there are times when there appears to be a radical break from the initial compositional structure of the work. In this process, he not only undergoes a process of burial and reconstruction in the canvas, but in other situations, he might also apply techniques of splicing, movement, adding and repeating certain elements together, which are then layered onto the existing foundation of an image. It is as if these self-internalized rules become loosened, enabling the painting to become enriched with greater variation.

Tang Yongxiang keeps in suspension a moment of anticipation by submerging explicit uses of foreshadowing on the canvas. It is a device he uses to free up the viewer from pre-existing experiences and ways of perceiving the image, thereby engaging the audience through a maximum degree of freedom. At the same time, he obscures and produces different moments of rupture, which function as entry points into the canvas space in a fashion similar to how he sees areas within the construction of a negative space. It is precisely situated here and from within these ruptures, where he opens new possibilities of the imagination, looking to move towards a different mechanism of image making – one opening a new dialectic between subjective and imaginary expression.

Lu Mingjun | A Floating Fiction, Lurking Perceptions, and an Interwoven Form

“It is precisely here that these ruptures become the entry point into the canvas space just as he will always be able to see in unlimited ways a positive negative structure within a form. Just as Tang opens up new possibilities of a visual narrative within these ruptures, it is also possible that these narratives might always remain incomplete. Conversely, while the forms within the canvas may be unpredictable, because of the many different layers they can be viewed, read, and interpreted, this also signifies how the canvases are never entirely arbitrary in their making. In this way, any provisional rationalization or causal relationship that influences the act of viewing no longer seems to impede Tang as he develops a way of imagining forms beyond methods of description.”

Zhong Shanyu | A Provisional Presence

“By engaging with memory, intuition, and the subconscious, Tang Yongxiang endows his work with an ethereal quality of estrangement. Material is culled from photographs and repeatedly function to extract information through engaging with the memory of the artist. The visual image is approached as an inexhaustible resource that offers unlimited possibilities of permutation – this also explains why similar icons frequently appear throughout his work. Suggestive of a compulsive tendency – when the back of a figure, the leg, or a still life appears, they each evoke a bewildering sense of déjà vu to the viewer. Yet these familiar archetypes and objects are merely the entry point into his paintings. They begin with a photograph, which becomes reconfigured via the artist’s own memory before appearing on the canvas. From there, they gradually begin to diminish – reaching a point of defamiliarization before eventually the painting becomes a record of sorts, capturing an instantaneous moment similar to the function of a camera. Perhaps in this way, his paintings can be regarded as the second take of the original photograph. Relinquishing the warmth of the body (although this does not entirely disappear), they become removed from the common attributes tied to the quotidian everyday object.”

Zhu Yingying | Impersonal Space

“What does he want to discard? The concepts imposed from the outside world, which includes motives tied to an aesthetic and system of categorization used to define materiality. When materiality is enabled to exist without a fixed notion of its concrete attributes or concepts, how does one connect back to the specific medium of painting again? It is from this standpoint, where the painter persists in the process of reshaping relationships of temporality and space through the language of painting.”

Tang Yongxiang: Tang Yongxiang

Some Figures Underneath a Tree, 2017, oil on canvas, 200 x 180cm

Bananas Next to a Black Line, 2017, oil on canvas, 80 x 100cm

Tang Yongxiang, exhibition view

Three People, Two Buckets, 2017, oil on canvas, 200 x 150cm

Tang Yongxiang, exhibition view

A Pile and a Few Buckets, Below an Area of Blue, 2017, oil on canvas, 200 x 600cm

Tang Yongxiang, exhibition view

Tang Yongxiang, exhibition view

Tang Yongxiang, exhibition view

Tang Yongxiang, exhibition view

Light Blue Tree Without Leaves, 2017, oil on canvas, 162 x 130cm