Lot 1040
  • 1040

Shang Yang

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 HKD
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  • Shang Yang
  • Dong Qichang's Plan - 4 (diptych)
  • signed in Pinyin and dated 07; signed in Pinyin and Chinese, dated 2007, and titled on the reverse
  • mixed media on canvas


Important Private Asian Collection


Lubecker, Lubecker Museum, Rote Berge, Grunes wasser Chinesische und Beutsche Kunstler Heute, 2007
Pfalz, Pfalz History Museum, Rote Berge, Grunes wasser Chinesische und Beutsche Kunstler Heute, 2007
Beijing, Bridge Gallery, The Scenery of Desire- Shang Yang and His Students Art Exhibition, 2007
Shi Jiazhuang, MoCA Shi Jiazhuang, The Scenery of Desire- Shang Yang and His Students Art Exhibition, 2007
Shenzhen, the OCT Art & Design Gallery, Hypallage- The Post Modern Mode of Chinese Contemporary Art, 2008
Frankfurt, Basis Space, Traditional Easter, Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, 2009
Jinan, Shangdong Provincial Library, Traditional Easter, Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, 2009
Beijing, Beijing Center for the Arts, Shang Yang: the Qong Qichang Project, 2009, p.36-37
Büdelsdorf, Kunstwerk Carlshütte, The Form of Formless: The Art Exhibition of Chinese Culture Year 2012, 2012
Wuhan, Hubei Art Museum, The Form of Formless: Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, Wuhan Station, 2013
Guangzhou, Guangdong Art Museum, Essence of China: Tour Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Oil Painting & Retrospective Exhibition of Chinese Oil Painting in the Past 100 Years, 2014, p.40
Wuhan, Hubei Art Museum, Essence of China: Tour Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Oil Painting & Retrospective Exhibition of Chinese Oil Painting in the Past 100 Years, 2014
Jinan, Shandong Provincial Art Museum, Essence of China: Tour Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Oil Painting & Retrospective Exhibition of Chinese Oil Painting in the Past 100 Years, 2014


Shang Yang: Sign with Deep Feeling for Great Landscape, Sichuan Publishing Group, Sichuan Fine Arts Publishing House, Chengdu, 2007, p.264- 265
Collection of Works by Teachers of Capital Normal University College of Fine Arts Vol. III, Culture and Art Publishing House, Beijing, 2009, p.16-17
Wang Dongsheng, Study of Yixiang Oil Painting, Culture and Art Publishing House, Beijing, 2010
The Style of Painting Vol. 20, Sichuan Publishing Group, Sichuan Fine Arts Publishing House, Chengdu, 2011
Shang Yang, Anhui Fine Arts Publishing House, Hefei, 2012 


The work is in overall good condition. No sign of restoration can be seen under UV examination.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

A Strong Postmodern Voice that Reforms Traditions

Shang Yang’s Dong Qichang’s Plan - 4

“These are three contradictory objectives - to be cultivated and educated, to possess specificity towards one’s time, and to deliver visual impact. I have always been thinking of ways to unify the three in my art, for it to become a living and whole being, a life form that survives independently.”

Shang Yang 

Shang Yang is a renowned scholar in the Chinese art scene. He graduated from Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in 1965, and obtained his postgraduate qualification in 1981. Subsequently, he became a professor at the Institute, and in 1989 took up the position as Vice President (the position of President did not exist at the time), nurturing next generation stars such as Zeng Fanzhi, Shi Chong, Shi Lei, Fang Shaohua, Wei Guangqing and Ma Liuming In 1985, he was selected from a pool of artists from the entire country to join the special masterclass by Zao Wou-Ki at Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts. After the 1990s, the artist began teaching at South China Normal University. Currently he is a professor at Capital Normal University and Vice Chairman of China Oil Painting Society. Although he has developed alongside the art institutes in his entire life, his art is drastically different from the mainstream academic style. Dong Qichang’s Plan - 4 is the first of a grand series after the new millennium, fundamentally transforming traditional paintings on many levels, from spirit to expression, to become a strong voice that captures the pulse of its time.   

 “Anti-20th Century”: A New Landmark in a Time of Changes

Dong Qichang’s Plan - 4 is a series spanning almost 10 years. The artist uses the name Dong Qichang, an ancient literati at the peak of literati paintings, to symbolise the entire ancient art tradition, which he dissects and deconstructs  to then reassemble and reconstruct with a modern perspective and the demand of our time. Such a postmodern concept originated from his self-positioning of “anti-20th century” in the 1990s. “Beginning from early 1990s, my work has expressed concerns towards the mankind and the environment. As time changed, the living experience became more poignant, and I could no longer leave behind my thoughts on such a subject.  I have kept striving to imbue such thinking with unique expressions, because this is the reason why I exist as a visual artist,” he said. Both his Great Landscape series and the Diagnosis series demonstrate his sensitivity towards the drastic changes of time. His Dong Qichang’s Plan series display his timelessly all-encompassing power and spirit, marking his ascend to a whole new level.

Dong Qichang’s Plan was born during the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic. Distilling the essence of the time and its special characteristics, the artist employs a composition akin to that of landscape paintings by Mi Yuanhui and Dong Qichang, adding to the picture outbreak prevention messages circulated by the general public, to highlight the absurdity of the current situation and the emptiness in society. As the threat of SARS eased and disappeared, the artist shifted the focus from immediate crisis to more profound and long-term issues in Dong Qichang’s Plan - 4, completed in 2007, while challenging the entire literati painting tradition with this piece.

The Paradox of Modern Chinese Ideals: Heaven and Man not as One

The visually powerful Dong Qichang’s Plan - 4 is formed by two size 150 canvas placed side by side. From vividly depicted landscape on the left hand side, to the bald peak in the middle, through to the heavenly domain floating in the sky on the top right hand corner, the painting draws the viewer into Shang Yang’s narrative one step at a time. Landscape is the main subject in traditional Chinese painting, its philosophical centre lies in the pursuit of “heaven and man becoming one” and “mind and objects integrated”. The theme of Dong Qichang’s Plan - 4 questions the way China has departed from such an ideal that has been pursued since ancient times, for the sake of development since the beginning of the 20th century. The mountains and water on the far left appear to be realistic and natural at first glance. Upon closer examination, however, the perforated lines evidencing human planning became visible. In other words, the symbol of harmony between nature and human is poised to be transformed by the industrial era. The result of such transformation is the lush landscape on the left becoming the bare and bald mountaintop in the middle. On the right hand side, the archaic landscape is placed midair, inferring that if nature is over developed, mankind itself will also be threatened, and the ideal of harmony between heaven and human will never be realised, rootless. Like the present piece, the realistic nature of China and the Chinese ideal of nature may appear to be one whole unit, but in fact are separated. On the top half of the left panel, words are falling off the pages of a book, implying that such a noble ideal of the Chinese culture is quietly vanishing amidst modern development.

The Deepest Understanding and the Most Thorough Deconstruction

Shang Yang’s artistic style is ahead of his time, a result decades of  in-depth investigations into art from ancient to modern time, from China to the rest of the world. The soil that nurtured his art originated from Hubei, Shaanxi and Guangdong. The powerful and rustic regional languages and cultures gave the artist the vision and brushstrokes heavy and sharp as an axe or a hammer. His works are often expansive in style and spirit, his painting style rustic and unpolished. “I won’t paint what’s not rustic. I must make it that way, probably because I spend a lot of time on cave paintings, and I was moved by its rustic quality. I am obsessed with such an effect, and I even believe if a painting is not rustic, it cannot become a good painting,” he said. His obsession with the rustic quality in paintings began when he was a teenager when he studied cave paintings by ancient people. He later expanded his studies to cave paintings in Europe and South America, and he kept himself updated of the new archeological findings. The primitive and organic cave paintings as well as the simplicity characteristic of ancient times have profound influence on his treatment of painting quality and perspective; the landscape on the upper right hand side appear at first glance almost graffiti like, but in fact it came from Dong Qichang’s Ji Shan Shu Shi Hua Gao Juan (Painting Collection of Mountains, Trees and Stones).  The text written above it, are also quoted from Dong Qichang’s original writing. The viewer’s vision and time progression move from left to right and back again (mountain on the left, mountain in the middle, mountain on the right, book on the left), seemingly influenced by Paul Gauguin’s Where do we come from? What are we? where are we going? A widely-read scholar, Shang Yang draws from his wealth of knowledge for concise and effective application. In addition, the use of mixed media reflects the characteristics of the industrial age. Dong Qichang’s Plan - 4 has become Rock and Roll of the East and the grand, harmonious ancient Chinese music of the modern time.