HUANG YAN (1966)
Mao, Spring Landscape, 2008
Oil on canvas, signed and dated on the back.
150 x 150 cm
Exhibition: "From Maoism to Maomania", October 2009 - January 2010, Maison de la Chine
Bibliography: Le Point, Special China, N°1945-1946, December 2009, p.196
HUANG YAN (1966)
Huang Yan (born in 1966 in Jilin Province, China) is a multimedia, Taoist artist based in Beijing.
He graduated from Changchun Normal Academy in 1987.
In 1999, Huang Yan began a series of paintings/photographs of traditional Chinese landscapes using the human body as a canvas, called "Chinese Landscapes". Both Feng Boyi and Ai Weiwei have noticed his work, notably at their controversial Fuck Off exhibition in Shanghai in 2000.
His art can relate to the Chinese people and their culture, although it is still considered contemporary art. The landscape paintings he uses come from the Song Dynasty, the most "Chinese".
On the other hand, the human body was rarely used in ancient Chinese art, which makes this art very contemporary.
Huang began his career as a poet and was recognized as an artist who used creative media such as the human body, ox bones, busts of Mao Zedong, flowers, musical instruments and old communist uniforms. He gradually became more and more popular through his art.
In 2008, in addition to being an artist and poet, Huang Yan also published several books about the emergence of new contemporary Chinese artists. Since his artistic medium is the human body, some people wonder whether or not the body is art or painting on the body. "When the body moves, the painted subject takes on another form or meaning".
Huang Yan's creations can also be considered performance art, even though he himself has never done a performance.
In Chinese culture, nudity and the human body are still considered taboo. Landscapes symbolize the intellectual values of the scholarly class. Painting them on body parts not only makes it an avant-garde art, but it is a new way of using traditional Chinese art and representing the relationship between man and nature, a very Taoist concept.
Although his art is considered taboo, its purpose is not to be offensive; his art is very symbolic and a way of expressing his beliefs. Other contemporary artists, such as Ai Weiwei, are bitter towards the government and have used the exhibition "Fuck Off" to express their anger and beliefs towards society and the government.
However, some of Huang Yan's most offensive art includes photographs of naked women. One of his photographs includes a painted woman running across the Great Wall of China, a very provocative act in Chinese culture. Each of his photographs has a black or white background, which is very brightly lit.
From close up, small details such as peasants, small houses, etc. can be seen.
The symbolism in his art is very important, the "deep cultural roots changing with the demands of modernity".
Huang also has a series of works where he draws faces and eyes on sofas and couches. Another of his mediums is porcelain. He created a series of porcelain portraits of Mao Zedong, but these were stopped by the authorities before they could leave the country to be part of an exhibition in Paris, France. The Chinese authorities found them to be disrespectful to Mao Zedong.
By using controversial artistic mediums, Huang is challenging the boundaries of traditional Chinese landscape painting. His wife, Zhang Tiemei, is a classically trained artist, and often executes the painting when they work together. If the face, leg or arm moves, the meaning of the landscape can take on a new meaning. Art is part of Chinese culture, and by painting traditional art, Huang reminds society to never forget what Chinese art means to them as part of their heritage.
This is where Huang likes to express both his Zen and Buddhist ideas.
In his series of Chinese landscape tattoos and in his series of the Four Seasons, Huang integrates man and nature.
Other Chinese artists, such as Cang Xin, Li Wei, Liu Ren, Ma Yanling and Wu Yuren, also use the human body as an artistic medium to explore the world.