Infinite landscape

AGNSW collection Fang Shishu (The autumn mountain at sunset) (1735) 120.1999
AGNSW collection Fang Shishu (The autumn mountain at sunset) (1735) 120.1999
AGNSW collection Yang Yongliang Infinite landscape (2011) 366.2011
AGNSW collection Yang Yongliang Infinite landscape (2011) 366.2011

This 'conversation' between artworks is part of a display in the Gallery's exhibition Conversations through the Asian collections. Due to their fragility, the works on paper are regularly changed over with similar works.

Mountains and rivers were seen traditionally in China as a final and everlasting retreat, a place for individuals seeking freedom from the stresses and constraints of society. Painting landscapes was a way for artists to imagine an ideal life away from mundane existence. More than that, it was a way of expressing a philosophy of humanity’s place in nature.

Yang Yongliang’s landscape seems to share this vision of nature. Its scroll-like format, smoky tones and cascading mountains echo the traditional ink paintings nearby. But step closer and it becomes clear that things have changed drastically in this world. Instead of huts and mountain paths there are power plants and freeways. Skyscrapers rise where trees once stood, and those subtle grey tones must be smog. These are no longer the mountains and rivers that provide an escape from a frantic modernity. Instead, uncontrolled industrial and urban sprawl fills the placid valley. The result is both fascinating and frightening – a landscape engulfed by ‘infinite’ development.

Think
How do both of these landscapes capture a sense of infinite space?

Create
Write a list of descriptive words for each of these landscapes. How do they compare?

Investigate
Are these works a true reflection of the landscape in the time they were created?