The New China | Huang Yan Solo Exhibition: Shanghai

21 June - 12 July 2014

At the end of 20th century and the beginning of 21st century, Huang Yan took part in some events and combined several art fields. He also became a pioneer in many fields, such as conceptual photography, interactive art, performance art, oil painting, sculpture, documentary, devices, etc. As a leading figure of artists of New Beijing School, Huang Yan learned traditional landscape painting from Wang Huai, and artist in Changchun in 1978. From 1979 to 1981, he studied works by The Four Wangs ( four Chinese landscape painters in the 17th century, all surnamed Wang and best knowm for their accomplishments in Shan Shui painting) and by famous artists during the Culture Revolution including Qian Songyan and Song Wenzhi. Huang Yan made a batch of shan shui ink paintings by ink rubbings in 1981, and participated in the 85 New Tide Art Movement under the gradual influence of the modern thought in the west. At the same time, a new imaging system of block print, i.e., mud block print was invented, which was an important event in art field in Changchun. It turned the direction of the development Chinese art based on the Enlightenment in late 17th-century Europe. It was the earliest work of Chinese post-literati art and an artistic innovation like a milestone. It was a new technic in the Chinese painting.


In the 1990s, Huang Yan created mail art all by himself in Changchun. By making rubbings of objects and sending mails, he studied the social change in Changchun systematically. The radius of Changchun became a geographic concept of Huang Yan’s conceptual art and interactive art. It was the first time that an artistic research was systematically conducted on a city in the name of art since reform and openness. Huang’s mail art was neither the western mail art nor general conceptual art, but a mixture of localized Chinese art. In 2000, Huang Yan went to Beijing and settled in the Shangri-La Art Commune, the first art district transformed from factories in China. Then he moved to 798 Art District and Songzhuang Art District. He set up Masidebi Art Center, a non-profit art organization in 798 Art District.


After 2000, Huang Yan’s paintings were presented in many large-scale international exhibitions about China. The most famous one of those works was the Shan Shui painting on human body. It was the first time that the subject of human was combined with Chinese art which emphasized that man was an integral part of nature in the ancient times. Huang Yan mixed the subject and the object in the painting, and amended the industry art. He initiated this work since 1994 by painting landscape on his face.


In 2008, Huang Yan focused on the painting and handwriting systems, started using semiology to present western modern art, and completed series of traditional Chinese painting research and series of fingerprint. He disassembled the traditional Chinese paintings into spots and lines, and painted plum blossoms, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum with random lines and spots (fingerprints). In this way, the details of traditional figure painting, landscape painting and bird-and-flower painting became conceptual. Since 2010, Huang Yan conducted many public experiments in the ten ink painting art exhibitions held in Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art. He regarded the influence on paintings by temperature and humidity as key factors, and considered strength, weight and other elements neglected by the western artists as important methods to affect artworks. This could be regarded as the beginning of “quantity art” and “variable art”.