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 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 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.
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.”
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.”