Can Yang talks us through her practice of “Neobridging” ahead of her RCA grad show
Throughout her master’s at the Royal College of Art, Can has been exploring materiality in art in the digital age.
- Ruby Boddington
- 18 June 2021
We’re long-term fans of designer Can Yang here at It’s Nice That. Back in 2018, in particular, we admired the deeply historical and philosophical work she was making out of RISD when we featured her as one of our Graduates that year. In the ensuing three years, it turns out Can has been busy building on that already strong foundation, undertaking a master’s in visual communication (on the experimental communication pathway) at the Royal College Art. Graduating very soon, Can’s practice today is thoroughly interdisciplinary and concerned with “the ubiquitous phenomenon of anaesthetising use of over-saturated images in our daily media, the 'precession of simulacra' by looking at post-modern philosophies and by using post-structuralist approaches to rediscover the functionality of two dimensional flat images.” This manifests as research but also as an image-led output, plus sound installations, and online and physical workshops.
Can has coined her practice Neobridging, “a speculative hypothesis of structuring new forms of practice through integrating layers and hybridising discursive polysemiotic dimensions," she says. "In building this model of art practice, which serves as a linkage from artist to artwork and artwork to an audience, my research is centred in promoting two values: multi-dimensionality and complexity.” Multi-dimensionality is an approach to criticism and involves “discovering, recognising and understanding the higher dimensions — the unseen, underlying, unspoken and implicit assumptions, ideas and frameworks of cultural forms.” The complexity part, on the other hand, references the mode through which Can’s work reaches its audience. “In comparison to the linear way of transferring a message from artist through artwork to the audience, the Neobridge model aims to deconstruct the determinacy and primacy of the work of art, that a linear thinking process of visual representation could be alternatively substituted with net-like discursive ‘bridges’.”
Many of Can’s interests lie in understanding the over-saturation and context of images in our lives. For example, she explains, digital images prevail as the apparent endpoint due to the acceleration of “dematerialism” within the creative sphere. This means that the materiality of the digital medium has been highly contested and many conversations surrounding art in the digital age seem to affirm that this endpoint, especially when reproduced or recreated, results in devaluing the work or “a progressive decay of aura” as Can describes it. In turn, the works in Can’s graduation show not only exist in the digital space but across media, “from traditional painting and drawing, to reproducible etching and printing, indexical photography and cinematic images to digital manipulations.”
In particular, there’s Form-bridging, an experimental series Can undertook as a way to maintain physicality and materiality within her work through the use of physical materials. “It aims to address the new forms of art practice through the journey of form-making and deconstruction of text, which take the form-making as a visual tool,” she explains. Starting with sketches in ink in her diary, she then works with lithography to make unique prints, also creating digital prints and sculpture. On these processes, she says: “The medium of lithography perfectly adapts the temporality by making one unique print each time and letting the ink fade away continuously until it deceases through the process of printing. In the medium of digital print, I enlarged the scale of the forms in order to experiment with the viewed participation in the physical space. The forms are at the other end of spectrum of recognisable symbols, or signs of the semiotic system – therefore enlarging the scale further abstracts the forms into pure illusions. The sculptural forms add in another layer of complexity by recreating and restoring the sense of emotion in other dimension.”
In another series titled Decontextualisation, a typographic experiment, Can works with “hand-cut forms to compose letters while using the scraps/throwaways/negative forms to compose another version of the [same] lettering.” She continues: “Letters are the components to form text and meaning but interestingly, during the visual communication process, letters are iconoclastic by non-referentiality — they are pictorial forms which are detached from the meaning. The newly-formed unreadable alphabets (A’s) stand on their own in the foreground and while decoding the content and form a language that separates itself from the authorised meaning.”
Can’s work will be on show as part of the RCA visual communication course’s graduation show and you can attend a workshop in Form-bridging as part of a satellite show at Ugly Duck in London. It takes place on 27 June at 10:30 AM and will also be live-streamed, the activities accessible via Zoom. You can sign up here.
Can Yang: In the Sprit of Flaked Rhizome overview (Copyright © Can Yang, 2020)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.