Yang Shaobin

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“I am constructing a sort of borderless ideal, this type of ideal is an complementary relation”

–Yang Shaobin


Yang Shaobin (b. 1963), Tangshan, Hebei Province rose to initial prominence in the late 1990s with a series of oil paintings that powerfully spoke an emotional honesty in the portrayal of a troubled soul through a distorted body. These monochromatic oil portraits silently scream in tortured anguish and frustration – reminders of bloody war, revolution, and of agonizing restraints imposed on the individual by contemporary society.


The fundamental anchor to Yang Shaobin’s practice has been his awareness of a social consciousness. Early explorations engage with the corporeal experience of the individual in society and collective memory. Later work often enters into the political realm, where familiar faces of Western, Soviet and Middle Eastern leaders haunt the surface of canvases, and scenes from media reports are interspersed with Yang’s violent abstractions. In recent years he has turned his attention back to his roots. Born to a coal-mining family, Yang Shaobin is highly concerned with the state of the coal-mining industry in China. His work, in collaboration with the Long March Project, delves into the underground world of exploitation, labor conditions and the physical repercussions suffered by the coalmining community. Through a diverse range of media including oil painting, video and installation, Yang Shaobin shares his personal encounter with the viewer, revealing the juxtaposition of hardship and happiness, despondency and courage in the lives of these coal miners.


From “Blue Room” (2010), monochromatic blue tone started dominating Yang’s canvases: portraits of world leaders, policy makers and players are juxtaposed with the innocent victims of ecological disaster, signifying the powerlessness of human condition and the violence of the reality we live in. From 2013-2014, Yang completed an epic series of six large paintings, “I am my tool – Wall Street”, powerfully visualizing passages of a tumultuous confrontation. Men with helmets haunt the surface of the canvases; scenes from the Occupied Wall Street movement are interspersed with Yang’s perceptible abstractions and modifications.