Exploring human relationships through body gestures

Artist Zhao Yang has taken an introspective look at the human form and fused it with Buddhism to inspire his latest exhibition.

Ti Gong

"The Tears of the Mermaid"

Artist Zhao Yang has taken an introspective look at the human form and fused it with Buddhism to inspire his latest exhibition.

The show, entitled “Alaya,” is underway at K11 art space and features nearly 40 paintings he created between 2012 and 2017.

Zhao says “Alaya,” derived from Buddhist terminology, is a transliteration of Sanskrit word, meaning “storehouse” or “receptacle.”

The 48-year-old’s canvas is filled with a strong personal touch: Signs and symbols are often applied to his “research” in various postures of the human body. He tries to use this body knowledge to explore the relationships between people and reflect on how we “confirm” and “deny” ourselves.

Zhao, born in Jilin Province and graduated from the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou in 1995, uses his unique understanding of the human body to reveal the imperceptible and inaccessible mysteries hidden within our bodies in order to interpret self-judgment.

Ti Gong

Zhao Yang at the opening of the  "Alaya" exhibition

Q: When did you become interested in Buddhism?

A: I had a roommate at the art academy who would sit in meditation every day. I was very curious about how this act could nurture or purify a soul. So I started to read some Buddhist books. The more I approached Buddhism, the more I got drawn in.

Q: Why did you explore the gestures of people?

A: Don’t you find it very interesting? I like to observe different gestures. For example, it is almost impossible for someone to lie in a 45 angle without any support in reality. But on canvas, I could put a person in a reclining of 45 angle, and the most important of all, viewers won’t feel strange about that. Isn’t this quite amazing?

Q: How long does it take you to create one piece?

A: I am keen on inspiration and spontaneity. I don’t have a fixed schedule for art production, because in that way it is not art.

Q: During your art creation, which brings more to you, agony or enjoyment?

A: Good question. Frankly, each time when I roll out a white canvas, I feel rather powerless and weak, because I don’t know what will be the final outcome. I would paint and overlap several times. That could become a process of agony. But when it is finally done, the feel is just terrific!

Q: Many said the oil canvas is nearing an end, do you agree?

A: No, I don’t. Yes, it’s true that there are many masters in front of me. Today when I am painting on canvas, each brush remind me of the predecessors. What I am trying to do is to carefully shy away from them.

In my eyes, art is akin to fashion. Fashion has a life circle: Those old-fashioned costumes might be trendy 70 years later. Who knows! I think it is also true withart.

Q: How could you find such trend?

A: Haha, that’s my ability. Always walk several steps ahead of others.


Exhibition details

Date: Through June 17, 10am-8pm
Venue: K11 art space
Address: B3, 300 Huaihai Rd M.

Ti Gong

"The Frog Prince"



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