Discovering Shang Yang, a pioneer of Chinese contemporary art at his first solo exhibition in NY

Capture d_écran Shang Yang's painting

By: Carolina Niso

From mid-September until mid-November 2018 the Chambers Fine Art is presenting the work of Shang Yang, a very well-known Chinese artist recognized throughout Asia whose work is relatively unknown abroad. This first solo exhibition is composed of two parts: one in Chelsey at the Gallery and the other one at ArtFarm in Salt Point, NY. Both are united thematically but are different in approach.

Born in 1942 in Hubei province, China, Shang Yang was nearly forty years old when he first won wide acclaim with the painting Boatmen of the Yellow River that he had submitted for his postgraduate degree at the Hubei Academy of Fine Arts, Wuhan.

At the beginning of his artistic path he trained in Social Realism, a prominent academic artistic movement during the time China maintained close relations with Russia. In fact, some of the Chinese artists of his time, including Shang Yang, travelled to study in Moscow. When he abandoned this style, China was opened to the West and other parts of the world.

Mr. Daniel Chen, the Director of Chambers Fine Art in New York, is proud to introduce this emblematic Chinese artist: “He focuses on landscapes. The earth is a living breathing thing, and he is very concerned with the environment. He is one of the very first artists in China who moved from abstraction to mixed media. In terms of contemporary art, he is a pioneer. Through the canvas of Shang Yang’s work, we want to show the NY public this incredible path and dialog. The message that he transmits to the spectator is not political or against the government; however, he criticizes what is happening in China in regard to the speed of the development and the degradation of the environment. He thinks it’s becoming very dangerous for the entire country. He passionately expresses this in his art,” affirmed Mr. Chen.

Capture d_écran Shang Yang's exhibit and public

“When you look at his paintings, it looks like a photo that has been printed on one section of the canvas. He then paints over it creating an image that is related to the environment. He uses the canvas as a medium to express respect for the Earth, for land and for the environment. The result is a physical demonstration of environmental degradation,” analyzed Mr. Chen.

As in some previous interviews, Mr. Shang Yang expressed in his own words “I am absolutely pessimistic. There is a wide-spread recognition that global warming is undeniable.” This belief is what motivated the creation of his artwork.

Other Chinese artists getting international recognition took him as their inspiration. Sometimes in fact, he was their teacher. After 1981 Shang Yang’s career followed an unusual course as he committed himself to teaching but also to his art. He distinguished himself by the development of a highly individual artistic practice that continues to surprise. His professional accomplishments have been recognized by numerous awards.

Capture d_écran Shang Yang's white painting

John Tancock, the curator of the Chambers Fine Art, explained that three years ago he was not really familiar with his work: “I went to an exhibition in Beijing and I saw some of these fantastic larges paintings and I thought, who is this person? So, I decided to do some research and go to meet him. I had a number of interviews and became convinced that his work would appeal to an international audience. He is a wise man: he thinks the artist plays a very important role in society and he draws to get the attention of people who see in his paintings the current major, social and ecological problems”.

As a result, he is very respected in China by his peers and also by a much younger generation of artists. The current exhibition of Shang Yang shows his most recent paintings and installations. The fully illustrated catalog that accompanies the exhibit contains essays by John Tancock and Wang Min’an which provide essential background for an understanding of his work.

Shang Yang exhibit in Salt Point.JPG

Photo by Chambers Fine Art

The Salt Point exhibition is by appointment only, please contact the gallery at 212-414-1169 or


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