(B. 1963)
No. 12
numbered and dated 'No - 12 1998-1999'; signed 'Yang Shao Bin' in Pinyin (lower right)
oil on canvas
231 x 180 cm. (91 x 70 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1998-1999
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2003
Xin Dong Cheng Publishing House, Yang Shao Bin, China, 2004 (illustrated, p. 107).
Hebei Education Press, Chinese Artists of Today: Yang Shaobin - Essence of Violence, Hebei, China, 2006 (illustrated, p. 96).
Venice, Italy, Venice Biennale, 1999.

Brought to you by

Felix Yip
Felix Yip

Lot Essay

Yang Shaobin spent his childhood in a mining area in Hebei province, and grew up in gang fights and mischief; when he first went to Beijing after graduating from the Hebei University of Science and Technology, he encountered some emotional turns of events, making him realize the fragility of human relations, at that time, he resided in the Yuanmingyuan Artists' Village, which was filled with restlessness, all these caused him frequent feelings of panic and anxiety. With his various past experience of life, and his tendency to explore deeper into human nature in his early Cynical Realist works and his Police Series, Yang created his Red Violence Series, and reached the peak of his artistic career. In 1999, the artist was invited to take part in La Bienalle di Venezia, the violence and conflicts featured in No. 12 (Lot 1035), surmounted cultural barrier, and impressed the Western audience. Yang's works then, grasped widespread attention worldwide, and began to gain exposure, ranging from international to domestic gallery exhibitions; his works gradually entered both the private and public collections around the world. No. 12 does not only represent how Yang converts the bitter feelings of his personal life into artistic creation, but also symbolizes a rarely-known facet of contemporary Chinese arts-the pursuit for universal values is in fact is hidden behind the constant conflict of humanistic cultures.
"Portrait is the best way to demonstrate this kind of intensity and shocking impact, the best way to touch people's heart," said Yang Shaobin. Wrestling physical movements are no longer depicted in No. 12, and instead in this picture picture, is applied in a palette of red, fully occupied by an indistinct head portrait, in which only the mouth and nose are identifiable, in faint insinuation; the rich and diversified warm tone of colour contrasts sharply with the theme of the picture, revealing Yang's mastery of colour; he paints the reflection in the shaded area with purplish-pink to represent shadows of the face, and to also display the change of light on the contour. In thin and diluted layer of paint, he depicts the absorbency of light on the surface to represent the bright light-projecting into the area of the picture, suggesting the artist's attempt to penetrate deeper beneath the skin to explore the internal spiritual world. As Yang once stated "Image and form can be made peculiarly unreal, this kind of unreality creates a genuine thrill, what is also called psychological reality." Although Yang focuses on facial depiction and deliberately hides emotions, the flow of paint tells only the occurrence and result of the violent action, we cannot tell whether the character is the perpetrator or the victim, the cumbersome telling of the event is excluded from the picture, the background, process, cause or motive of the violent event is no longer important, because the nature of brutal violence in No. 12 is a even more profound revelation of human nature. Taking the evolutional point of view, Darwin put forward the concept of "Natural selection, survival of the fittest" in Evolutionism, in order to survive and reproduce, organisms must adapt constantly to the environment, the evolution process itself is a kind of competition, as human beings and the whole creations strive to survive, it is often inevitable to gain the right to survive by means of violence. Yang emphasizes on the conflict of bodily senses, in order to arouse the audience's understanding and resistance towards fights, and their emotional pull and struggle; although violence originate from human beings' innate ability to conquer and survive, it accentuates people's fragility and helplessness both at physical and spiritual levels.
"Only in the state of violence and fight can we maintain the highest level of consciousness on our moral nature, and the highest degree of moral pleasure is often accompanied by pain," said Friedrich von Schiller, a German litterateur. Under its violent form, No. 12 continues the depiction of humanistic conflict and contradiction in ancient Greek tragedies, by wiping all the external descriptions about personality, identity and status away from the character, the artist can break away from environmental constraints, and express visually his reflections on "human"; although the theme is violence, the picture demonstrated naked human nature, under the induction of violence, wavering between moral and conflict, good and evil, divinity and animality.

Related Articles

View all
Updated: art exhibitions and e auction at Christies
‘This is the most beautiful ev auction at Christies
Monet and Klein lead the 20th/ auction at Christies

More from Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art (Evening Sale)

View All
View All