Culture

This artist makes giant Chinese paintings with just dots

Jun 20, 2019

Up close, Yang Mian’s paintings might look like a bunch of dots, but step a little further away, and you’ll see the bigger picture.

All of his pieces are dot renderings of famous Chinese paintings.

Yang Mian’s pieces are dot renderings of famous Chinese paintings.
Yang Mian’s pieces are dot renderings of famous Chinese paintings. / Photo: Nathaniel Brown

Yang is a contemporary Chinese artist whose work has appeared in both international and domestic exhibitions since the 1990s.

He graduated with a degree in oil painting from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in 1997, but these days, he’s best known for his dot paintings.

“When I’m in America and people see this work, they think it’s very Chinese, very contemporary,” Yang says. “But in China, they don’t get it.”

Yang Mian in his studio in Chengdu.
Yang Mian in his studio in Chengdu. / Photo: Nathaniel Brown

Yang was inspired to make the dot paintings one day when he projected a low-resolution Picasso onto a wall during a lecture.

“When you put an image through a projector and blow it up to 3 by 2 meters, wow, it’s extreme,” he says. “You can’t really see the image anymore. You just see color.”

From that was born his dot-rendering project, CMYK, named after the four colors found in most printers.

Yang Mian uses the four colors found in most printers—cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—in his dot paintings.
Yang Mian uses the four colors found in most printers—cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—in his dot paintings. / Photo: Nathaniel Brown

Since then, he has produced several large reproductions of famous Chinese paintings, including Nine Dragons, a massive handscroll painting by Song Dynasty artist Chen Rong.

“I believe it is the most famous painting of a dragon in Chinese culture,” Yang says. “I spent about two months on this and worked with my assistant to finish the painting.”

The patches of paint will eventually become dots.
The patches of paint will eventually become dots. / Photo: Nathaniel Brown

Yang has to map out each painting dot by dot on a computer before transferring the image to a large canvas. After that, he punches holes on the canvas and uses them to paint dots onto the final product.

It’s a long and laborious process.

“So now I have a ritual,” he says. “After a piece of art is complete, I will bring it to my studio, turn on the lights, and look at it. When I can say, ‘Ah, this is what I wanted,’ I’ll drink a glass of whisky.”

ArtSichuan

Credit

Producer: Clarissa Wei

Videographers: Nathaniel Brown and Clarissa Wei

Editor: Joel Roche

Mastering: Joel Roche

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