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The Representational and The Abstract

Exhibition foreword Author: Yu Yu Translator: Jo Liu 2017

Yu Youhan’s painting works can be divided into Early Landscape, Early Abstract, Pop, Yi Meng Mountain, and Late Abstract periods. But these periods chronologically overlaps each other, and his painting language also crosses over between periods. This exhibition not only showcases his latest works from the last two years, but also key works during past transitional periods. It attempts to dig into some of the crucial points of the artist’s career, and locate a continuous inner thread that runs through his creative journey.    

From his perspective, a characteristic shared between traditional Chinese art and the impressionist Paul Cézanne is a high level of generalisation. Generalisation is abstraction, a way to extract subjectivity from representational objects. Yu Youhan’s demonstrated extraordinarily powers of generalisation since early in his career. Abstraction has been one of the most important threads that runs through all of his paintings. His representational artworks are distinctly abstract whereas the abstract works usually integrates representational elements. In his eyes, abstract dots, lines, and surfaces, as well as representational figures and landscapes are all logical components of composition. The sense of order created by these components as a whole is the central question of his creative work.

Over the past two ears, Yu Youhan, who always advocates for breaking free from narrow-mindedness in art-making, further develops his painting style. Various painting languages are mixed together, including the heaviness of historical elements and lightness of dynamic characters blended in abstractive images. “Terracotta Army on Yimeng Mountain” is a classic case where the ancient terracotta army and contemporary landscape merge across time and space, reflecting Yu Youhan’s contemplation of the developmental status of human society and his expressions of cultural and painterly consciousness.

From the work “Disassembled Hexahedron” inspired by packing boxes to works of “realism” depicting the surface of the moon, the techniques used in his new works continue to capture the temperament of returning to a primal “clumsiness”. But an impressive variety is demonstrated in these new works, revealing the relaxed attitude of the artist and the way he earnestly practices his philosophy of closely connecting art to life. As he said himself: “Duchamp said his life is his best art. I say my art is my best life.”

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