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YANG Jiechang: Beneath the Golden Antlers

May 18 — Jun 28, 2024

April 25, 2024 (Palo Alto, CA) – Qualia Contemporary Art is pleased to present Beneath the Golden Antlers, the gallery’s first solo exhibition of the esteemed contemporary ink artist Yang Jiechang. The exhibition will highlight a recent body of work that includes the artist’s representations of animals, in addition to a selection of works from the seminal “Hundred Layers of Ink” series. As part of the gallery’s ongoing programmatic focus on contemporary artists from the Asian diaspora, Qualia is proud to welcome Yang back to the Bay Area following his inclusion in the 2022 group exhibition Beyond Ink, curated by Xiaoze Xie. The exhibition will be open to the public from May 18 – June 28, 2024, with an opening celebration hosted on Saturday, May 18th, from 4:30-6:30 PM PST. For more information, please visit

Yang’s practice is underpinned by an amalgam of influences and elements from traditional Chinese culture and Western modernism. While he works in a variety of media, such as painting, sculpture, installation, performance, and video, Yang is best known for his mastery of traditional Chinese media — brush and ink painting, meticulous color painting, and calligraphy — a legacy and cultural tradition central to his oeuvre. Despite this expertise, much of Yang’s practice is an experiment in abandoning his academic training and reconsidering its conventions.

Beneath the Golden Antlers features paintings from three different creative periods: three sets from the Hundred Layers of Ink series, namely For Bada, Palo Alto, and Ten Thousand Things, created between 1989 and 1999, and paintings executed in the so-called meticulous color painting technique belonging to two different series: On Ascension and Tale of the Eleventh Day – Mustard Seed Garden dating from 2008 and 2014 to 2021, respectively. The title of the exhibition is an auspicious reference to the painting “On Ascension – Golden Antlers”, featured in the exhibition.  

On view alongside Yang’s newest work, the artist’s canonical series “Hundred Layers of Ink” appears in various books on Chinese contemporary art, and has become a paradigmatic work in the field. The layered surface of these monochromatic paintings reflects a muted light, reminiscent of some kind of mysterious ore; the meridians extend vertically and horizontally, like sediment on the floor of an ocean of ink. These paintings are indeed the result of a repetitive and meditative process: the artist applies layers of layers of pure and deleted ink onto Xuan paper, until the paper is completely saturated and the black ink turns shimmery and luminescent. The paper wrinkles with the water and obtains a kind of sculptural quality. Figure and ground merge; the simple abstract forms seem to stretch beyond their margins, recalling the process of the sublimation of the self in meditation. The creative process actually is the deconstruction of Chinese painting into its basic elements: paper, water, and ink. The Hundred Layers of Ink series displays neither skill nor imagery or personality, and painting here is rather a way of contemplation than a means of representation.

The exhibited works all deal with nature and the role of humans in our world, a focus closely tied to the artist’s own preoccupations and chosen lifestyle. Yang does not consider himself an ink painter or calligrapher, but rather a contemporary literati. He not only emphasises the use of the brush, but also a kind of pragmatic spirituality that is anchored in the here and now; Yang’s spiritual practice is similar to that of Chinese literati culture, where contemplation and self-cultivation through the practice of the arts were as much an act of participation in worldly affairs as governing.  

Yang received a traditional education from his grandfather. From him he not only learned how to write Chinese characters with a brush, but he was also acquainted with the concept of ambiguity. His grandfather, who was an impoverished landowner, confronted him with a worldview differing from the one taught by the official ideology in his textbooks. The awareness of the existence of a position in between, of alternative views that transcend a dualistic perception of the world, marked the beginning of Yang’s independent spirit from very early on. The culture transmitted by his grandfather and his later training in Taoism in the 1980s under an eminent master allowed him to approach life from an intermediate position. This intermediate position, which he calls the “grey zone”, is exactly the ground from which the artist can look at things differently and act in an unorthodox manner. 

Qualia invites visitors to experience “intermediacy” through Yang Jiechang’s artistic process and practice. Spanning more than three decades of Yang’s prolific career, Beyond the Golden Antlers will introduce audiences to the visual lexicon and conceptual concerns of this foremost contemporary ink artist. 


About Yang Jiechang

Yang Jiechang was born in Foshan (Guangdong Province) in 1956. He graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 1982, where he taught until 1988. He has lived and worked in Paris and Heidelberg, Germany, since 1988. Yang gained international recognition through his large monochrome black ink paintings entitled Hundred Layers of Ink, shown for the first time in the seminal exhibition “Magiciens de la terre” in the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1989.

His works have been shown at many important exhibitions and venues, such as: “China Avant-garde” (National Gallery, Beijing, 1989), MOMA Oxford (UK 1993),  ARC Paris (Paris, France 2001), Palais de Tokyo (Paris 2002), Stanford Art Gallery  (Stanford, USA 2005/2007), the Shanghai Biennial (1998/2012), the Gwangju  Biennial (2002), the Venice Biennial (2003), the Guangzhou Triennial (2003/2005),  in “La Force de l’Art – 1st Paris Triennial” (2006), and the Liverpool Biennial (2007),  the Istanbul Biennial (2007), the Moscow Biennial (2009), the French May (Hong  Kong 2001/2015), “Carambolages” (Grand Palais, Paris 2016), The Metropolitan  Museum of Art (2013), “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the  World” (Guggenheim Museum, New York/ Bilbao 2017/2018), “The Street”, MAXXI  (Rome, 2021),” Carte Blanche à Yang Jiechang”, Musée Guimet (Paris 2022).

YANG’s works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Musée Guimet, Paris; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn; Cantor Arts Centre, Stanford University; Berkeley Art Museum; M+ Museum; Hong Kong Museum of Art; Hong Kong University Museum of Fine Arts; Taikang Museum, Beijing; Minsheng Art Museum; Guangdong Museum of Fine Arts; Fukuoka Museum of Art; Fondation Pinault, France; National Foundation for Gigantic Art, Taiwan; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.


About Qualia Contemporary Art

Located in downtown Palo Alto, the heart of Silicon Valley, Qualia Contemporary Art is dedicated to showcasing outstanding established and emerging artists working in a variety of media. The gallery is committed to building lasting relationships with artists, collectors, curators, and scholars nationally and internationally, and providing a vital platform for dialogues on contemporary art and culture in the Bay Area and beyond.


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229 Hamilton Ave

Palo Alto, CA 94301

Gallery Contact 

Dacia Xu


Media Contact

Lainya Magaña, A&O PR 



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