Ebb and Flow

Ebb and Flow
signed and dated ‘Huang Yuxing 2015-2016’ (lower middle)
acrylic on canvas, diptych
each: 208 x 258 cm. (81 7/8 x 101 5/8 in.) (2)
overall: 208 x 516 cm. (81 7/8 x 203 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2015-2016
Acquired directly from the artist by the presentowner


Rendered in smooth contours and imbued with a striking sense of structure, Huang Yuxing’s geometric orbs look like fetuses or unknown creatures enveloped in sheer film, like some kind of highly evolved machinery of the future, like clusters of celestial objects in the dark cosmos, or like gemstones that were formed throughout the ages. The science-fictionesque aura of Ebb and Flow alludes to traces of some form of alien life in another time and space, and emanates the joy of the unknown. The fluorescent colours and dark royal purple hues weave together kaleidoscopic patterns, revealing colours that resemble those of an enhanced digital image. This brings to mind Thomas Ruff’s Substrat series. While they differ distinctly in expression, both are centred around the contemporary visual experience, as they radically challenge the established systems and essence of the medium.

The relationship between colour and form creates sensory illusions such as light and shade, dimension and depth, and the sense of motion, warmth, fragility and hardness. While the viewer cannot pinpoint the form of the object or its direct relationship with physical reality, the painting inspires a sense of familiarity that resonates with the human body. We may even envisage Ebb and Flow as the veins, bones and cells of the human body, as it seems to re-create from a microscopic perspective an experience of living that is beyond what can be seen. The only concealed entity is the bright yellow, oval-shaped object at the centre of the composition; it shimmers with vitality, which anchors the biological dimension in the viewer’s imagination of the work.

This mode of viewing or “experiencing” painting possesses both purity and corporeality. As the viewer looks for recognisable imagery, narrative and emotional resonance amidst the overwhelming colours, they also feel as if they were enveloped and engulfed in the work. It embodies a bewitching psychological reality and an intricate network, and what is illuminated are encoded messages. There exists the creation, happening, interchange or transformation of all kinds of relationships. Yet painting is, in the end, a static surface. It is detached from life, and that represents the limit of the artist’s oscillation and the end of the creative process. When unspeakable emotions and feelings are turned into visible objects, there lurks a strange language that awaits exploration by the viewer.

Can Ebb and Flow, which reveals a subtle order amidst a wild and vigorous composition, be seen as a futuristic epic about contemporary life, one that is full of metaphors about technology, capital and the media? Or, perhaps Huang Yuxing sought to create a new state of painting from a macroscopic perspective that is closer to archetype in literature? Here, the figurative and the abstract are no longer the subject of discussion. The focal point is how the external, real-life experience enters into the inner experience; how the elaborate and creative expression or symbols come together to create images of universal meaning.

It takes persistent effort to build an autonomous system outside of existing models. “Light”, “river”, “bubble”, “meteorite” and “treasure” are recurring motifs in his works from 2005 to 2015, and they converge in Ebb and Flow created in 2015-2016. It reflects the artist’s nurturing of and quest for archetype, which revolves around the transience and eternity of time—the most fundamental yet elusive proof of human existence. And whether they bring sorrow or joy, all matters that are born, vanish and change in an endless cycle are the gifts of time.

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