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Mutual Influences: Stellar works by Yang Jiechang and Wang Keping at
Yang Jiechang, 100 Layers of Ink, 1991, 96 cm (h) x 65 cm (l) x cm (d). Mixed Media on Canvas.

HONG KONG.- is presenting "Mutual Influences", an exclusively curated selection of key artworks by Wang Keping and Yang Jiechang from private collections. The artists’ lives and careers in France have cast profound effects on the history of contemporary art from China and are critically recognised as leading forces from the period. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of French-Sino diplomatic relations, this timely exhibition explores the avenues in which these two important artists have been influenced by their new environments, concurrently rooting back to their native Chinese traditions.

Born in Foshan, Guangdong, China in 1956, Yang Jiechang gained international recognition for his large monochrome ink paintings, distinguished in their abstraction and spirituality. In the mid-1980s, Yang studied Taoism under the master Huangtao, which profoundly affected the aesthetics of his works, allowing the spiritual to supercede visual. In many ways, Yang's paintings can be considered a way of contemplation: whether through the repetitive practice of layering ink, or through meditation. In the recent series "Stranger than Paradise", Yang’s works all show a unique interpretation of a world that defy tradition and celebrates an imagined normality.

A strong advocate of autonomous regional and marginal expression, Yang frequently refers to his Guangdong origin and the region’s vital culture for his artistic inspiration. The artist left for Paris in 1987 to take part in the "Magiciens de la Terre" exhibition at Centre Pompidou, and has remained in Europe for the past two decades, living between Paris and Heidelbeg. The two works on display in "Mutual Influences" form part of Yang's "100 Layers of Ink" series, a series that the artist worked on for a decade between 1989 and 1999. These are critical towards understanding his canvases as an expression of sustained questioning and redefining of identity, with reference to diverse cultures. The works are results of focused repetition: Yang applied ink to the same pieces of paper, day after day, until the paper became saturated. At this point, the ink takes on a luminescent quality and sits tenuously in between a two-dimensional (painting) and three-dimensional (sculptural) space. The materials used bring to mind traditional Chinese literati paintings, yet Yang has reinterpreted the gesture into a contemporary context that extracts the artist's hand from any direct meaning.

In the same period of the 1980s, acclaimed Chinese sculptor Wang Keping also moved to Paris. Wang is best known for his wood sculptures inspired by the figurative form, yet strive towards simplicity and abstraction, creating symbols of human nature and sensuality. As one of the founding members of the controversial artist group "The Stars" (Xing Xing), one of the first contemporary avant-garde art movements in China founded immediately after the Cultural Revolution, Wang fought for the freedom of artistic expression in China. His earlier works were political, as part of the charged environment of late 1970s Beijing. When he moved to France in 1984, where he continues to live today, he shifted to a more naturalistic approach and there emerged his aesthetic quest for more primal forms of expression.

Exhibited on are two beautiful works - "Angel" and "Female Figure" - each of the forms almost animated to life. To Wang, wood emulates corporeal form, a juxtaposition of soft and hard, with each of his unique sensual female figures attracting tactile contact. Each figure flows in the shapes of breasts and curves with such simplicity whilst retaining the subtle rawness of the woodgrain and knots. Reminiscent of primitive African sculpture, Wang has defined his own language of form, always unique and concurrently building a recognizable legacy of art.

"Mutual Influences" straddles the boundaries between France and China, examining the profound influences of these two nations on Wang and Yang. Presenting art that correlates the body, spirit and the performances of creation, the exhibition embodies the global essence of contemporary art.

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