'Pixel analysis': Pushing the boundary of visual art

By He Keyao(chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2016-06-21 09:42:34

Some work of Yang Hongwei's series Pixel Analysis. The Mona Lisa shown in different arrangements and different sizes of "pixels" which result in different visual effects. The exhibition is part of the Columbia Beijing Week activities. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

What is the very basis of image making? Color, linellae or structure? A recent solo exhibition featuring the basic elements of an image opened up a whole new set of possible answers.

Titled Pixel Analysis, Chinese wood block artist Yang Hongwei's solo exhibition meets its Bejing audience at Core Plaza this month, presenting a new visual world and exploring the very essence of art in a thought-provoking way. Four sets of his works are on display.

The idea is to decode an image’s foundation into a number of square units - black, white and 90 shades of grey - before establishing an image by using those units. They are basic elements of image making, or "pixels", which can be arranged and organized in boundless ways, resulting in different pictures. In other words, they are finite elements that create infinite outcomes – a kind of universal philosophy lying behind his creations.

Some work of Yang Hongwei's series Pixel Analysis. The Mona Lisa shown in different arrangement and sizes of "pixels". As the unit "pixels" grow bigger, the image gets more fuzzy, resembling the zooming effect on a computer screen. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

"The simplicity of the idea of discrete pixel is key to the artist’s successful creation of these visually compelling, sophisticated works," said Lydia H Liu, celebrated cultural critic and Wun Tsun Tam professor in the Humanities Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures of Columbia University. "As the artist tries perversely to make the pixels visible to the eye and tangible to the touch, his works succeed in unbinding the conceptual divide of digital and analog media."

Yang's work is an inspiration of movable printing in traditional Chinese culture, combined with the concept of contemporary digital database matrix. Traditional western wood engraving techniques were used to make the creations more powerful in artistic expression, expanding the meaning of words and images.

One of Yang Hongwei's works is shown at the exhibition. The work is made of metal square units - "pixels" that construct the image of a Buddha using the light reflections. When standing from a distance and at a different angel, viewers will see different visual effects. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

"Yang's work is one of the very few art creations that impressed and shocked me in recent years," said famous Chinese artist Xu Bing. He stressed that Yang's work had reached the depth of the "Metalanguage" of fine art.

"It's a 'gene pool', instead of a 'tool'" Xu said. ”It is like creating new grammar out of the old language." Regeneration and reproduction is the core of printing, which is fully demonstrated in Yang's works. Xu explained that Yang maximized the very basic elements of prints and made use of them, which is the gene of print art.

One of Yang Hongwei's works is shown at the exhibition. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

"It's to test the possibility of rich images with the least number of colors. It is the essence of print art," Lydia H Liu said.

Yang Hongwei, an artist and professor of China's Central Academy of Fine Arts, produced a number of highly acclaimed works and held exhibitions worldwide over the past decade, including his wood engraving seriesSolar Eclipse (2007-2008), Water Flowing Out of the Sky (2009), and The Millennium Monument (2010).

One of Yang Hongwei's works is shown at the exhibition. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Yang Hongwei(left) talks about his artworks with a guest.[Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Famous Chinese artist Xu Bing gives his comment on the exhibition to the media. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Lydia H Liu (center), curator of the exhibition, talks about the artworks with other guests. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

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