Yang Fudong: ‘An invisible bridge between the artist and his audience’

One of China’s most exciting contemporary artists shares the diverse influences that have shaped his captivating work in film and photography

Known for dreamlike photographs and films that leave the viewer at once disorientated and entranced, Yang Fudong’s work blurs the boundaries between history, memory and imagination. Yang, who is represented in the UBS Art Collection, is part of a generation of contemporary artists shaping Chinese visual identity, to international acclaim.

In this short video introducing his art and influences, the Shanghai-based artist describes how he first encountered video art and installation at university, while studying oil painting. As he explains, the fresh avenues opened up by new media ‘served as a seismic influence on our practices… Personally, I believe that influence extended to many artists and their practice in fields such as Chinese classic painting, traditional calligraphy, and the Eastern aesthetic more generally.’

The collision of Chinese artistic tradition, early cinema and contemporary Western art and film has marked his own work profoundly Yang often draws on Chinese tropes and fables, refracting them through a modern lens informed by a fusion of cultural references. Frequently working in black and white – ‘the purest forms of color’ – he deliberately seeks a sense of timelessness in which his protagonists wander without arriving, seemingly adrift in their beautifully staged surroundings.

Yang himself describes influence as a patchwork formed throughout the life of an artist: ‘I believe that our education, our living environment, our teachers, our elders, as well as the artists we are interested in at different life junctures, all form a broad blanket of influence over us.’

Importantly, he feels the audience also brings their own unique set of life experiences and associations, which transpose themselves upon what the artist has presented. ‘In my view,’ he explains, ‘the audience are more like connoisseurs, and when these connoisseurs view artworks, each as an individual, they bring with them a very personal perspective. They thereby become a second director, or a second author of the work.’

It is this ongoing dialogue with the viewer, which he describes as ‘an invisible bridge between the artist and his audience,’ that gives each work many possible interpretations. For an artist whose work resists definition, it is a fitting idea.

UBS is a lead partner of the 7th edition of the West Bund Art & Design Fair held at the West Bund Art Center from 11 to 15 November 2020. Yang’s work will be on display at the West Bund.

November 2020