Yang Shaobin: The Ten Commandments
'Magnificent Fecundation' refers to the basis and beginning of life. What looks like a fireball in gold, red and black vaults into the centre of the painting. Faced with erupting volcanoes, one is reminded of red-hot igneous rocks in inexorable motion. We are presented with the image of a high-energy fusion. We are not shown which types of energy collide here, but have an inkling of the sheer enormity of the cataclysm taking place.
Above the altar, the centre of the Christian church, the painting connects with the plane of meaning of its context. This is where the connection between God and humankind becomes visible through the Holy Communion; this is where people find themselves invited to start afresh; and this is where religious energies that call upon them to free themselves of false attachments and welcome responsibility are concentrated. Yang Shaobin's painting expands our horizon, allowing us to reassess our habits of observation and expectations upon entering a church. In this way, Yang Shaobin’s painting stands up to the observer's enquiring gaze as it leaves questions about the cause and source of our existence open.
Corresponding to the altarpiece, the painting entitled 'Climax' is at the entrance to the church.
While Yang Shaobin confronts the realities of miners' extreme living and working conditions in Hebei with his 'Miners' exhibition (currently on show in Beijing), the 'Ten Commandments' sequence shows images drawn from the media and available to the artist in China.
The potentialisation of the negative - typical of the capitalist media - is adopted by CCTV, China’s state-run television station, which draws on CNN footage.
In this way, Yang Shaobin reaches his personal interpretation of the Ten Commandments, whose value system is, of course, entirely foreign to him.
He interprets the Ten Commandments against the background of a reality transmitted by the media and combined with fictitious film scenes and a video-like representation of estranged sexuality. Yang Shaobin transforms this canon of content charged with sensation into the medium of painting.
Sensational events, catastrophes and conflicts define our everyday lives. The selection of themes is governed by the laws of the media, which decree high audience ratings and sensationalistic subject matter. The repeated transmission of these images burns them into the collective memory. Their sources, content and validity are not questioned.
We are certainly no strangers to these images of violence, war and threat in the familiar context of evening television reports.
The artist merely appears to absolve us of responsibility by using existing images, by showing us known criminals and culprits, physical violence, oversized weapons, the desolation of mankind. In the visible absence of freedom and under the hallmarks of our world, he actually makes us shoulder the responsibility of confronting reality and taking stock of our own lives.
The hope that these paintings could be presented in a sacral space, allowing them to be read as the unsurpassable boundary of the abysmal, was not fulfilled. In their overwhelming impact, these paintings instigate a concrete reality that does not leave the church space or its aura unscathed. For this reason, we shall forgo the opportunity to show these paintings in the St Matthäus Church. Nevertheless, this body of works forces us to confront this reality and scrutinise our existence, which can tread the path to freedom through the application of the Ten Commandments as a universal value system.
The entire 'Ten Commandments' cycle will be exhibited at ALEXANDER OCHS GALLERIES BERLIN in January 2007.