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Life Imprint

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

October 23, 2021 - December 18, 2021

Shanye Huang’s Solo Exhibition Showcases the Tenacious Human Spirit via His Massive Painted Paper-cut Installations and Paintings at CCACC Art Gallery

Exhibition Artwork

Our Reception

About the Exhibition

Through his large-scale contemporary painted cut-paper installations and paintings, the artist explores the resilient and tenacious human spirit that sustains us through the multitudes of struggles and emotions at these difficult times. His art comes with a personal narrative and observation yet reflects largely our shared experiences. At this challenging time, his work offers us a glimpse of hope and an opportunity to contemplate our self-identity and transformation; our relationship to each other and the world around us. As the Museum Specialist at the National Gallery of Art, Carolyn Bevans, notes in her essay for this exhibition, “Works such as Unyielding and One Voice remind us that humanity is experiencing this together and that together we are resilient.” “…in many ways, this exhibition invites us to ask ourselves - what imprint will we leave on the world?”

With his bold, bright, and experimental approach, Shanye Huang’s art challenges the traditional, disciplined painting skills including paper-cut, while connecting his southern Chinese folkloric heritage with the western contemporary art practice. He has received numerous awards for the excellence in his art including his being the recipient of the MD Creativity Grants, the NY Fund for Contemporary Art Grant, and the United State Artists Foundation. His work, Tapestry of Dreams, inspired an American musician to create a grand dance symphony, and it was then made into a ballet that premiered in New York City in 2009. His work has been featured in shows and collected by museums/galleries in America, Europe, and Asia. Shanye Huang graduated from the Guangxi Arts Institute and the Central Academy of Fine Arts in China. He became a US citizen after being awarded a permanent US visa under the “outstanding artist” status in1995. He lives and works in the DC Metropolitan area.

Carolyn Bevans' Essay: On Shanye Huang's Solo Exhibition LIFE IMPRINT

Isolated. Anxious. Untethered. These are just a few of the emotions that have gripped the world since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It was these emotions-and what feels like a never-ending pandemic­ that inspired Shanye Huang's most recent work, Unyielding, as well as themes throughout his solo exhibition, Life Imprint.

Spanning 14 feet, the viewer is engulfed by Unyielding in the same way that this unprecedented pandemic has overwhelmed our world and our lives. As one's eye journeys from corner to corner of the massive painted cut-paper installation, it moves up and down, twists and turns. In some ways, the sharply cut paper is reminiscent of large sheets of rusted metal that have been shaped, compressed, and twisted by an invisible, but powerful force. The cool blues and deep purples bleed into warm oranges and yellows. The colors and shapes mingle and flow in and out of each other. There's no clear start or end. It's not linear, moving from one point in time to another. Instead, it's an ever-evolving dance where we move fluidly between various states. In this way, we see the presence of the yin-yang philosophy, the harmonizing and interplay of energies throughout the universe, which is at the very core of Huang's work and artistic process.

Huang's process begins with preliminary sketches, which he then translates onto Xuan rice paper. He applies a combination of ink and acrylic paint, which helps to strengthen the paper, providing structural integrity and making it less prone to tearing. Huang describes this step in his process as "creating the work of art in its original form." He then goes on to create patterns and forms, refiecting his inner thoughts and mediations, before carefully cutting the paper. For the artist, this process is a metaphor for transformation - another theme threaded throughout Huang's work.

The artist explores this theme from a personal perspective in his Transformation series in which he grapples with his experience having come to the United States from China. In Transformation, he overlays cut paper onto a vibrantly painted canvas. Looking at these works, one is reminded of the palimpsest quality of one's identity. With each new experience, our sense of self becomes layered - embracing the new while maintaining the traces of our past.

Having grown-up in Guangxi, Southwest China, the artist draws inspiration from the textiles and embroidery arts from his Zhuang Ethnic family. He explains "since I was a child, I have been fascinated with the colorful tapestries in the embroideries used in our daily lives, decorated on our clothes, bags and baby carriers for instance." In many ways, Unyielding is a woven work. Some areas reveal more space, while others seem closely knitted together, which brings to mind another symbol that appears frequently in Huang's work: the endless knot. In his paper cut installations and paintings, we see different shapes, colors, figures, and characters woven together to represent the idea of eternal connectedness and interdependence.

Such interconnectedness is a particularly compelling concept at a time when physical isolation is a painful reality for many. Works such as Unyielding and One Voice remind us that humanity is experiencing this together and that together we are resilient. His works do not impart a false sense of optimism. Unyielding acknowledges hurt and happiness and cradles both. It represents how happiness and joy coexist with moments of sorrow and pain, and neither are extinguished by hardship. Similarly, the shared bodies and faces in the large-scale painted cut-paper installation One Voice remind us that we are inextricably linked to each other.

In this challenging time, Shanye Huang's work offers us a chance to contemplate our relationship to each other and the world around us. He reminds us that while external experiences may shape us as individuals, our thoughts and actions have a transformative impact too. In the artist's words, "I hope my works act as the record of our life to inspire hope and faith in rising above and emerge as stronger and better." So, in many ways, this exhibition invites us to ask ourselves - what imprint will we leave on the world?

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