For Huang Kui, a serious accident was the beginning of an entirely new understanding of the concept of life, and what triggered a reconsideration of his relationship to the world. From Me to The World I See, Huang Kui has engaged in a series of reflections and creative works that make up his current exhibition, “My Projection is Focusing.”
The exhibition comprises two major parts: “Self-Observation in Detail” and “The Virtual World I See.” The oil painting series “Probability”— part of the “self-observation” portion— derives its subject matter from Huang Kui’s three-story fall, a horrible accident that left the artist with a broken leg. Huang Kui considers the probability of life and death from the perspective of a survivor, engaging in self-observation through photographic records. He photographed different parts of his body while in the hospital, along with other images related to the accident, and then began to paint: his leg suspended over the hospital bed; his head, turned away from the camera; skin covered with scratches; small cuts, repeatedly scabbed over and bleeding; sutured wounds following surgery; the spot where the injury itself took place. In addition, he presents a still-life drawing of his own dismantled plaster cast. In this moment, the artist abandons his present self and transforms into a coldly detached observer, a stranger— a new position, a liberation; the ‘“I” that emerges is no longer “I” in its original sense— it occupies a liminal space in which one has not died, nor has one ever been born.
Huang Kui’s series “eiπ+1=0” (Euler’s formula) is a video installation turned bionic simulation of the artist’s own head and hands. Composed of twenty-five frames— for eyes, ears, mouth, nose, chin, neck, the back of the head, left hand, right hand, and related movements— he records his body parts separately and then recombines them. The product of his self-documentation is a vision somewhere between reality and virtuality. As though the image of the artist has been dismembered by the surgical scalpel itself, the fragments come together again, reincarnated in the form of an electronic megaorganism that breathes quietly, blinking its eyes, gazing out at the audience. This is Huang’s inquiry into his own existence.
The photographic series “Virtual”— a part of Huang Kui’s “Virtual World”— employs multiple modes of exposure. Light and shadow are Huang’s paintbrush, and become an extension of bodily gestures: scrawling and smearing, projecting the image of himself into the world of everyday life. Chairs piled up with riffraff, the factory chambers of the M50 art district, the warped shadows of a wasteland and its overgrown, neglected patches of grass: the artist treats all of it with effects like fuzz, static, superimposition, inverse lighting, highlighting. These images, all related to memory, are both drunken illusions as well as Huang’s skimming glance over the surface of parallel worlds— “seeing is believing” is no longer a sound method of observation. His “Thousand World” lightbox series captures the interior and exterior of the building, the streets, public squares, license plates, lamp posts, and so on, all through a fisheye perspective. These distorted, abstract images are projections of the real world within, a visual manifestation of the quantum physics that have long interested Huang.
As a relatively standard solo show, this exhibition marked a rare occurrence for ShanghART in recent years. The content of the work is both rich and well-suited to the theme. Huang Kui has employed the “self-portrait,” a classic art-historical subject, in successfully guiding the “small me”— the observer— towards a clear ontological expression of the “big me.” But looking at each work on its own, questions worth deliberation still remain: in terms of expression, do the coarse strokes of realistic oil painting still communicate simply and straightforwardly? Do the photographs and light-boxes make too heavy a mark? In terms of their status as art, do they still await further transformation? Weng Zhijuan (Translated by Katy Pinke)