Huang Zhiyang, Playing with the Construction
◎ Chen Lvsheng
Huang Zhiyang is a self-possessed and spirited contemporary Chinese artist, as well
as a bookish one.
His character was shaped by the elementary education he received in Taiwan. The
distinctive multivariate methods seen in his creative works stem from his knowledge
and understanding of culture and cultural issues. Though like many contemporary
artists he drifts amongst different media-ink art, installation and sculpture, his
ponderings follow an independent path in which his cultural concerns invariably
emerge. He pursues the profound issues of art, engaging philosophical and religious
questions without shirking from the aesthetic implications. As a result, his artistic
language has developed through numerous, diverse stages.
For an artist, the construction, discovery and reconstruction of his individual artistic
language system is a pivotal working process that reifies and embodies one's core
artistic values. One can see the "late-life transformation" (shuainian bianfa), [of artists
such as Qi Baishi] as the push toward such an all-pervading unity [of values and
language]. The art language system of Huang's work-from the temporality of ink wash
to the spatial experience of installation, from the austerity of monochrome ink to the
experiential world of color, from the reality of the "Delivery Room" to the unreality of
"Auspicious Beasts", and from the imagined "Nest" to the concrete "Moss"-with its
countless transformations and abnormalities of aesthetic experience, will only find its
convergence, its unity, in the world of the spirit. These movements in language reflect
what is going on in the artist's inner being-indeed, it is difficult to predict what his
next thought will be and hence what he will do next. From the spiritual world, Huang
conveys thus his artistic concept in precisely this kind of movement in language and
from this constructs his own "contemporaneity" .
For many years, Huang Zhiyang has expressed a particular interest in semiotics and
the various ways in which one can link concepts to signs. He begins with the creation
of a signifying unit but then builds upon and extends it [aesthetically]. Through the
construction of various kinds of signs, he manifests a diversity of artistic qualities.
The signs that compose his Possessing Many Peaks [sculptures], and the Three Marks
series, the regularity of the constituent elements are a rational expression identical with the artist's own disposition-in its rigorousness it resembles the speculation of a
philosopher. Through a different method like that in the Lovers' Library series, human
body forms are compound signs such that within the parameters of the body, sign and
form relate through pattern and regularity. Having also served as the basic depictive
means of When Flowers are not Flowers, Huang extends this technique in the Beijing–
Bio series. The similarity in signing does not mean the sign unit has a fixed image, but
that the sign's features emerge in the process and context of the drawing or painting.
He says, "Bit by bit I began to accumulate the marks and symbols for my paintings.
In the process of exploration that I began, searching for what could be called my own
'space', pictures took form and found completion in correspondence to the conditions of
the outside world, of society, and of the environment."