A Review of Dalong Yang’s Photography Work.

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Photograph by Dalong Yang

Dalong Yang is a photographer currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at Columbus College of Art and Design. Yang’s studio is overflowing with prints, rolls of paper, and various items. I am always curious when I walk by and I get caught up in the gaze of his subjects as well as the surrealistic and brightly colored compositions. The leading eyes of his models often feel like they are in a dramatic futuristic plot that is about to unfold. Almost as if these images were taken from stills of a larger story, and without knowing this narrative I’m left with my own wonder and imagination to fill in the rest.

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Photograph by Dalong Yang

Dalong’s work has commercial characteristics however, there is more to it than this. From what I have observed through critiques and various other presentations, his creative outlook is to tell a story in his photographs, something more than what is typically expected. Often times he leaves the viewer with just a hint of information that leads them into these surreal and dreamlike images. By using elements of fashion and surrealistic spaces Yang creates photographs that have a haunting and dreamlike feel.

Dalong_Yang
Photograph by Dalong Yang

In his most recent work, a supernatural occurrence Dalong experienced at a younger age plays an influential role in his photographs. Now he is pulling from those memories for inspiration. By acknowledging that maybe, we are not alone in this world he is finding a way to think about his experience differently. Spirits, a presence, ghosts, and the otherworldly—many of us might have had an experience with something that feels like a presence, or have seen something unexplainable. Dalong is pulling from his own experience as well as classic scary movies to create new stories that might leave the viewer with a more unsettling feeling after viewing his work. I find this new work exciting! After seeing his work for over a year now, I could see this new inspiration for his photography becoming a lifetime endeavor for him.

I see Dalong not just as an artist and photographer, but also as a storyteller. There is something more here than fashion and commercial photography, and I always look forward to seeing what he has to share with us next. To see more of his work and to learn more about him please visit his website: dalong-yang.squarespace.com

Fragility

My thesis work began through the study of water flow and a series of questions. One of the driving questions and most interesting to me is, “How can we, as artists pull inspiration from the environment when it has been forever contaminated? ” I know, kind of a depressing question. I don’t want it to be, it should be something acknowledge-able, and figured out. It’s a fact, reality—not a preachy statement. What I’ve struggled with is the destruction of the environment and how can I represent that in my work without being negative, preachy, etc. . .

TEST LEAF_1How can patterns and systems be inspirational when they have been so contaminated? Lately, I think about my work as contamination. When I work I tend to get really messy. I’m contaminating the wall, paper, etc. . . I’m not interested in keeping the paper clean and prestigious, I want it to get messy and imperfect. If it touches the floor it is, okay. I even think about the line forms that I continue to use as a form of contamination. The black marks feel like contamination at times. Especially in the work I’ve made over the past year. The work I have been making has meditative aspects, however, it is not the type of meditative work I made before coming to grad school.

I want to acknowledge the fragility of nature because it is relatable to others in one way or another. Whether they care deeply about the subject or if they care at all, is up to the viewer but it’s relevant because it’s the world we live in, contribute to and overlook everyday.

I’m interested in presenting something strange and somewhat alluring to the viewer. By mimicking forms and patterns in natural and manmade systems, I’m trying to give these systems the voice they deserve and present something that will engage the viewer and perhaps leave them with a sense of curiosity and wonder. Much of my research has focused on water systems (particularly the Scioto River), pollutants, and fractal patterns that occur in nature. I have a passion for the environment and figuring out how I can present scientific data/research in such a way that transfers these ideas in a more poetic manner has been on my mind.

My final presentation of work will be determined in the early weeks of next semester, that is when I will focus in to finish these pieces. Until then I am continuing to make a body of work that I can select from. This semester has been about figuring out the medium and methods of how I want to express my ideas and figuring out which methods are more effective.

I am searching for the answer to the question asked at the beginning of this post. However, I am not sure if there is an answer. I believe examining this questions unlocks a door, and is a way to open up conversation.

Thesis Progress. Images now, words later!

This post is an update with images & video of what has been happening in and out of the studio. Collecting, researching, observing, contemplating and walking.

My research has focused on water systems (mainly the Scioto River), pollutants, and fractal patterns that occur in nature.

This is all for now.

2nd year. After 1st Critique.

I had a lot of great feedback and I’ve taken this week to process and try and sort out some things. Some great conversations have happened before and after my Critique. One thing that I have found is that the subject of water is HUGE. I knew this from the beginning but after about 5 weeks into the project it’s REAL now. There are good and bad things to this. I think once I work things will manifest, so now it’s just a matter of working. Even though my research has been going strong I haven’t had as much time for working in the studio. The plan now is studio time and collecting.

Collecting. . . (I’ve also been collecting leaves but I forgot to take a photo, oops)

2nd year.

What have I been up to??

So, this blog has been neglected! Staying busy always has a downside. I thought I should start off with a post about what I’ve been up to.

Over the summer I took a much needed break from the work I was doing last year. I focused on making photographs for clients and personal work. I needed to take a breath of air from the work I was doing and let it settle.

Currently, I’m working on the weekends still doing portraits and other jobs that I can find as well as trying to squeeze in extra studio time. Being a commuter and working is hard. I wish there were more hours in a day and I didn’t have to sleep so much. I’m staying with Amy & Rachel when I can. They are wonderful and have saved my sanity this year, already.

I have been looking at different shows that I might enter past work. I have stayed far from this until the past month or so and I finally decided to submit some things into a show. This has been a big deal for me because I have avoided any shows since I’ve been in the program.

My office at home, Where I live when I’m not at the Studios. Maybe I’ll show my home studio on the next post. . .

Thesis beginnings…

I came in a few weeks before the semester started not knowing what I was going to make. I began to strip some things away from the work last semester to find new direction. The system I kept coming back to in my notes was water. Last semester I was making work in response to the current events I was reading about (And there was a lot of experimentation going on). Coming back into the studios I just wanted to start making SOMETHING because I was feeling stuck. What seemed to be at the heart of last semesters work dealt with water systems & contamination. I have been asking myself the question what does it mean to be an environmental artist and my research has been in this area.

I began exploring the form of water in different ways. I tried using the bare element of just water (no pigment) on different papers to see how the material would react.

I started a series of line drawings, thinking about the form of water in an abstract way. I accidentally spilled a cup of blue paint in this process and decided to clean it up with bristol paper. I stamped the paper on the spill that I had made using my feet and hands. Like you would do cleaning up any spilled mess on the floor. Something about picking up the spilled paint with the paper seemed interesting at the time. So, I made a series of them and that is currently what I’m working on. I let them dry without altering the paint on the paper, letting the water flow and make forms on the paper. Going back into them and drawing over the forms. I am not sure exactly where this work is headed but what I am interested in is how water has so many associations. I’m looking at it from a ton of different angles and that can be a good and bad thing. It’s fluid, pure, polluted, destructive, peaceful, dirty, powerful, calm, it’s uncontrollable, but we try to control it, etc.. the list goes on. This felt like I was on the right track but have since started questioning my work altogether. I am looking forward to getting more feedback. Some direction I have thought about heading is illustrating (in some form) some of these associations with water, so you get that feeling of the act of being uncontrolable, etc. . .

I have been listening to the book, “The End of Nature” by Bill Mckibben. Which talks about humans influence on natural systems. The end of nature doesn’t necessarily refer to an apocalypse, but rather it talks about how nature is not this big thing anymore—to put it simply. We have altered the air and water so much that our footprint can never be removed from it—questioning what this means? From simple watersheds to the Ozone layer we have altered it all, destroying life and changing ecosystems. He gives a lot of information about DDT’s, acid rain, GMO’s, global warming, etc.. The author questions what kind of “nature” we will have in the future and what that will mean to our society. He quotes everyone from scientists, ecologists, to Henry David Thoreau. It’s a little slow but is so rich with information that it’s overwhelming. I am really interested in this book because he takes a holistic approach to this issue. It has been his life’s work. The reason I am drawn to this is because I am fascinated with the connections. It relates to my interests in systems because everything really is connected whether we want to think about it or not.

Now it’s just time for me to start cranking out these ideas in a physical form in my work. The water paintings are a study of the form of water. I need to take it to the next step.

Example of the water drawings: IMG_2677Untitled copy

The end of the 2nd semester and final critique!

My work this semester has taken many different paths. Experimenting with new methods of mark making, the sewing machine, and materials, and attempting to bring dimensionality to my work has had many failures and a few triumphs. I tried to push myself as far as I could with this short amount of time. Hopefully I was successful in that. Of course there is always room to grow but I feel I did a decent job of trying to step out of my comfort zone.

Referencing natural systems has influenced my work tremendously throughout my process. My research the last few weeks of the semester has dived into the realm of environmental concerns. I see my thesis work being environmentally centered. At least this is a starting point for my research over the summer.

Listening to Jame Gleick’s Book, “Chaos: Making a New Science” has been a huge influence this semester. Thinking about the micro and the macro in so many areas of life it creates a structure but can leave the door open for many different interpretations. Even though I might not fully understand all of the science, the concepts at large speak through the language of the book.

“…[to] Physicists, chaos is a science of process, rather than state, of becoming rather than being. Now that science is looking, chaos seems to be everywhere.”
–James Glieck “Chaos. Making a New Science

SO… end of the semester stuff:
I will be showing two pieces at the end of semester critique. One is a piece that I am working on until the date of install. It is constructed with small components to create a larger piece. The other is a print constructed in the same way. I am considering mounting the print to masonite or other structure if time allows. If not for the end of the semester, I will do this over the summer. I thought that I would post my rough draft of an artist statement for the first piece to get feedback to see if my ideas are coming through and what I could do better.

My rough draft artist statement:

This piece is a cultivation of experimentation and ideas. Using a machine that is typically used to mend and repair I am depicting a fractured and broken system in an abstract form. The sewn lines can reference many systems found in nature from river systems, tree branches to fractures and seismic waves. The direct reference to river systems and fractures is a response to many different events happening currently in our environment from hydraulic fracturing to chemical spills.

I am interested in giving voice to these systems and relating them to concerns with the environment and our impact on these systems. By utilizing the frenzied lines I am depicting a confusion of cracks and breaks on the surface of this translucent paper. The layer beneath is even more chaotic and fractured which represents the damage that lies just beneath the surface of these systems and the areas that we cannot see.

Representing ideas of contamination as well as the broken environment; we have created a world very different from what it was. Although the surface seems structured the act of sewing on this material is breaking the paper apart. The only thing that is holding it together is the threaded line of the system.

 

Artists.

Influential artists this semester:

  • Christopher Wool
    I found his use of different mediums and interest in visual language really compelling, especially in a particular show depicted in this video.
  • I’m in love with this artist who is a painter that I recently found named Iva Gueoruieva.
    I found her looking for environmental artists who have recently expressed the controversial topic of hydraulic fracturing in there work (click here). Through the Internet I found a wonderful world of her paintings.
  • Ann Hamilton
    Her use of the, “threaded line” and also her massive public installations are fascinating. I listened to her most recent recording on www.onbeing.org several times this semester. Much to learn from listening to Hamilton speak about her work.
  • Wade Guyton’s use of technology to create his paintings (video link).
  • Bovey Lee’s cut paper works are wonderful. I was really drawn to the content of the artists work. Use of the medium alongside Lee’s artist statement (here) is really inspiring. If you want to look at more of the work click here.
  • Chris Jordan
    Also, the environmental concerns in Jordan’s work is what I’m interested in. Jordan’s work is loud and in the viewers face expressing different issues that face society today. Artist’s website here.
  • Bill Atkinson’s “Within the Stone” –Photography Book I actually have not checked out this book but have been looking at many of the images online as reference photographs. This reference is probably just my fascination with the micro elements that he depicts in his photographs. If I only had the equipment and time to explore macro photography. One day.
  • Last but not least this artist is quite peculiar.

It’s nice to meet you.

(This post is a roller coaster of words.)

Sometimes the thing you are looking for is all around and you choose to ignore it because of this or that. Or something else. Environmental issue’s, political issues, personal issues…. are very touchy subjects.

My work has always been a form a meditation, a way to respond to the world. I’ve always thought of my work as a response rather than saying something. I am drawn to work that is quiet but that whispers something else.

I think most of us could say this in one way or another about our work however; my work lacks any form of content. The line strips everything else away. By repeating over and over the same line gestures there is nothing left. At least this is the way I view it. Yea, I’m interested in the natural world, biological systems, etc… but that is still stripping a lot of content away. There is not much to talk about after that is said.

Throughout my entire college career I’ve always been academically focused. I always put my artwork second. Focusing primarily on my artwork here at CCAD has been wonderfully stressful.

I like to know what’s going on in the world and then there usually comes a point where it starts to become overbearing and I shut everything off and make something.

Susan Li O’Connor (my mentor) has encouraged me every step of the way to explore different formalistic concerns in my work. By acknowledging I have some things to figure out but leaving that door open for exploration has been the best thing for me this semester. With the end of the semester looming near it is very stressful but having the freedom to really just figure things out about myself has been the key to understanding what my work is about. I realized in our meeting this week I was ignoring some of these things I care about. I didn’t want to talk about this issue or that in my work in fear of it becoming too hippy-ish or cliché. Or I just didn’t know how to express it in the work.

so…

I’ve been following the on going saga of hydraulic fracturing in Ohio since 2011 when it started to become a large issue. What I realized over the past week is that I’m really interested in the idea that everything is contaminated. The environment, our bodies, everything around us is effected by some kind of pollution; literal pollution, meaning the carcinogens we sometimes breathe & consume and also the verbal pollution that we speak, hear or receive. Everything is broken. Also, this idea that we capture a moment by taking an image of something we consider beautiful or whatever and try to reproduce it by printing or digitally sharing it online becomes a deconstruction. Concerning the images I’ve been taking of natural systems, they seem pure and untouched. By sharing, printing & sewing on them I’m contaminating the images. This is where I’m at this point. I’m tired of trying to hurry up and figure things out because of this notion that we should have everything figured out. It’s taken me two semesters to get to this point. And I’m happy with that.

 

Update. Stuff.

Critique today. Besides the set backs I think I’m making some progress. I have a temporary sewing machine that I picked up over the weekend. His name is LeRoy. I’m looking to purchase another machine soon, one that’s heavy duty. So I’ve been researching those trying to find one that will work… As far as my work goes I’m still working on some of the same things I showed at the last critique but I will be showing sketches of pieces I plan to work on the rest of the semester. Lots to do and figure out. One of those pieces is something that is illuminated from behind. For the sake of the end of the semester looming near I am using the window on the second floor studios. It is about half finished and I’m looking forward to getting feedback on it from todays critique. I’m also working on another series of vellum photographic prints of natural and man-made systems. . . .and a burnt paper series (continuing to push the mark making process). So many things going on and to talk about.

A tribute. Proceed if you have the time to read a tribute to a broken machine.

My sewing machine was a gift when I was 16. It had a long life of traveling, living in closets, shelves and on the floor. It was used to make pillows and ugly bags out of old clothing that I would carry crap in from one place to the next. It hadn’t been used for years but I knew that I would use it one day. I brought it to my studio when I moved in before the first week of class where it collected dust for the first semester. This semester, it was time for it to live.

I loved that I could control the stitching however, sometimes the machine didn’t understand what I was trying to make it do and would lash out at me through jumbled bobbin thread. I started figuring out how I could control the “mistakes” that were happening and make them on purpose. I put my machine through a lot for the first part of the semester.

It broke over spring break. I took it to a sewing machine shop. The owner was extremely nice and looked at it for free and determined it was a bearing problem with the motor. He said I should just replace it because the parts were expensive.

So, I took it home and now it’s sitting on the floor again. I’m trying to find the proper place for it’s final resting place. Until then, I am on the hunt for a more heavy duty machine that might be more appropriate for what I’m doing. If you have any suggestions please let me know. Although this has been an exploration I feel that it will continue in my work for a long time. So it’s time to upgrade. So long old sewing machine, thanks for the inspiration.

Sewing Machine that has no name.
2002-2013