HUANG Yuxing: After Waking Up the Wild

By: Yang Zi

Translated by: F

Sep 17, 2014

It is known to those who have been trained in fine art that when painting with acrylics or oil paint, one should depart from the dark colors, gradually move to the light ones, and dot with pure white for the highlights. This requires the artist to have a relatively clear picture of the image before taking the first stroke and own the power strong enough to control it. In other words, the painting is the realization of the picture in mind. And artist’s work is to precisely visualize the idea. On the contrary, HUANG Yuxing's work is not limited to the standard of a certain ideal image, but grows naturally from inside the painting.  

HUANG Yuxing, River | Whirlpools, Acrylic on canvas, 600×260cm, 2014 

This is not to say that HUANG aims his practices at going beyond the shape of the objects and reaching the land of absolute purity. From the beginning till now, water, whirlpool, forest, mineral, crystal and even architecture have been his favorite motifs. Although he has never tried to precisely represent these objects, he has neither absolutely abandoned their shapes in the real world. Moreover, HUANG even attempts to reconstruct the impression of these objects. When standing in front of a river, people usually tend to stare blankly without realizing it. The colors that HUANG Yuxing loads on the canvas immerse the audience in the same blankness. 

Due to his frequent use of solid colors, some read his practice as Pointillism of post – impressionists. But in fact, different from the Pointillists, this artist never passively waits for the audience’s eyes to mix the solid colors, but overlaps the colors and adjusts them over and over to finally reach his satisfaction. Contrary to the academic way mentioned at the beginning, HUANG Yuxing applies light but low saturated colors like fluorescent yellow and magenta as the ground, and covers with a layer of blue and red, which is a bit heavier. So on so forth, as the layer grows, the color grows stronger. In the end, the dark parts of the painting are actually the results of more than ten or even dozens of overlaps. 

HUANG Yuxing, River | Spray and Whirlpools, Acrylic on canvas, 200×125cm, 2014 

The reason why HUANG Yuxing strictly sets the painting process is that he intends to activate the energy from inside of it. At first, the artist does not work with care. He pretends to “underestimate the enemy”. Without a sketch, he chooses light colors simply out of his intuition and mood. When the artist proceeds to the later stages of coloring, disruption and imbalance of the image are easily “elicited”. At this moment, the artist is required to propose various solutions to modify and to “save” his paintings. For example, a stroke of blue is painted to an oval bubble, so that it looks gentler in shape; or cover it with the color of rose and mix it to a chip of purple; or add a new chip of color to balance the image. In all, the modification of colors, shapes and compositions have taken control of the artist and kept him busy. While it is during this process that painting gains for itself a life of freshness and self – sufficiency, and the motivation for permanent growth as well. This well explains HUANG Yuxing’s preference of solid colors – when “coping with the power”, solid color offers the picture more possibilities to be open, while mixed colors limit the development of it. Following this logic, the audience could also consider his favorite themes – water, forest and mineral stones – as objects designed to fit his way of painting, for they are all things that do not occupy a fixed shape but are flexible in form. 

In the latest exhibition THE RIVER’S GOBBLED UP TREES AND HE’LL SWALLOW YOU NEXT, HUANG strives to push forward the way of painting he has previously started.  For instance, in the series The Bubble Will Not Break, and the Time Will Not Be Following From the Past to the Future, shown at the Shanghai Gallery of Art this June, the artist chose an abandoned double – bed plank as his "canvas", and on it painted many ovular bubbles. The cracks in the plank are hard and straight which perfectly balances the gentle outlines of the curved bubbles.  While in the River series shown recently, such as in River | Whirlpools, the water stain took over the original function of the plank. And in River | Spray and Whirlpools, the artist separates the vertical lines of the trees from the horizontal oval ripples in the river, and inserts the reflections of the trees into the river, which enhances the dramatic tensions between circle and lines, and the verticals and the horizontals. But in the case of The Bubble Will Not Break, and the Time Will Not Be Following from the Past to the Future, the ability of the planks to support and display the paints is worse than that of canvas – the resulting colors skew gray. This tendency could also be spotted in this latest exhibition. In River | White Bushes, HUANG Yuxing employs a lot more white to emphasize the dim atmosphere. 

HUANG Yuxing, River | White Bushes, Acrylic on canvas, 150.5×99.5cm, 2014 

To some extent, we could see this exhibition, THE RIVER’S GOBBLED UP TREES AND HE’LL SWALLOW YOU NEXT, as an important mark of the artist's creation – he has just finished exploring this working method and started to experiment from various angles in order to make the most of this methodology. That is to say, having mastered skills of intriguing the wild inside of the docile painting, the next thing HUANG Yuxing needs to focus on is effectively control this beast. As a matter of fact, endowing every part of the image with energy, and maintaining the picture under balance and harmony has always been an unsolved tasked left by the precursors of Chinese modern art. However, in this realm of contemporary art, which is full of concepts and knowledge production, HUANG Yuxing surprisingly selects this tough work and succeeds for the first stage, which is convincing people of his courage and persistence.