Peihang Huang | [UN]REAL
Grace Belgravia, London
7th April - 30th May 2016
“To suffer is one thing; another thing is living with the photographed images of suffering, which does not necessarily strengthen conscience and the ability to be compassionate. It can also corrupt them. Once one has seen such images, one has started down the road of seeing more – and more. Images transfix. Images anaesthetize.”
Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography’, 1979
At first glance, Taiwanese painter Peihang Huang’s paintings are enchanting and irresistible, with their swathes of rich oil paint, dynamic brushstrokes and pastel hues. Upon closer inspection, darker elements surface; an aeroplane fractured in two, the devastation of an earthquake or avalanche, scenes from a refugee camp. Huang’s practice consists of the multiple aspects of her imagination, her perception of reality through media images and the physical process of painting. She references familiar and often iconic images from the mass media and weaves these events or incidents into an imagined painterly scene, reflecting the artist’s parallel universe and her re-visioned reality. Huang filters the images through her own imagination, perhaps as a way of processing the negative aspects of human nature, or to digest life’s harsh realities. The world she creates hovers between a visionary realm, the unreal, and a fragmented interpretation of the modern world. The paintings are dream-like, almost hallucinatory, highlighting the beauty and joy of the visual experience, yet the viewer is not able to escape the sinister undertones of the image’s origins. The overall effect is a dichotomy between a seductive and an apocalyptic representation of the world we inhabit and how we respond to the crises and adversities of life in the 21st century.