April 5, 2024

【Interview with Chinese artist Huo Gang】Rediscovering geometric abstract art!

There are no boundaries in creation, nor are there any age limits. For Mr. Huo Gang, a prominent Chinese artist in his twilight years, life should be lived in accordance with fate, and creation should be guided by the heart!

Huo Gang is one of the “Eight Great Horsemen” and a representative figure of the “Taiwan Modern Art Movement” in the Chinese art world. Looking back on his artistic journey, spanning over 70 years, from Nanjing to Taiwan, then to Italy where he lived in Milan for fifty years, his passion for creation has never waned. Experiencing different Eastern and Western cultures has transformed his artistic style from hyperrealism to geometric abstraction, creating a unique artistic world.

And his experience of immersing himself in and exploring art, every step is bold, but unexpectedly he explains: “I’m just walking in this direction, not daring to say I’m bold, but it’s because it’s difficult that I find it interesting.”

He said that pursuing the unknown is his interest. This pursuit is a lifetime of time, and fifty years later, he returned to the departure point (Hong Kong) and birthplace (Nanjing) with his own works. This exhibition is an opportunity for artistic exchange, more like his Reunion journey. So, as he returns to his spiritual homeland, he comes to personally tell this simple but not simple creative story.

Between Sensitivity and Rationality

If you want to add keywords to his style, he describes it as “creativity” and “uniqueness”. “I will think in multiple ways to create constructive and substantial works, so I tend to be rational and abstract.”

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  • So I carefully examined them one by one, from geometric shapes to colors, to see how he integrates the artistic forms of the East and the West, to understand his artistic world.

    Rational geometric shapes give people a solid and tough feeling; and his paintings are mostly presented in blue and green tones, unconsciously reminiscent of the deep blue sky, rippling lake water, or winter ice and snow, exuding Eastern lyrical abstraction. “Painting emphasizes change, I often use cool colors, but occasionally warm colors. Personally, I prefer blue and green tones because they are more in line with fantasy.”

    He did not annotate every work because he preferred people to interpret it themselves and slowly feel the minimalist and poetic visual language he portrayed. But beneath the seemingly meticulously calculated rational surface, for Huang Gang, creation is an act where emotions outweigh rationality. “When I’m in a good mood, I paint; when I’m not, I stop and continue when I’m in a good mood. It’s like, when I’m settled, I paint more imaginatively and express my inspiration, so creation is absolutely free.”

    So in his works, from elements to imagery are filled with a sense of mystery in a surreal style, also adding a spiritual visual poetry. “There are no restrictions, but there is a main direction in thought, which is simplicity, not too much, not too complicated; and within simplicity there must also be depth, spirituality that can make people think, rather than painting out of thin air. If even oneself cannot understand what is in the painting, cannot explain it, it will become very vulgar.”

    The freedom of creation, insisting on only drawing out his thoughts and ideas, also contains a set of unique thoughts and philosophy belonging to him, “Artists make bold assumptions, while scientists carefully verify. As an artist, there is no need to be so meticulous, but to provide a way of thinking, which can be something different.”

    Looking at him wearing a light blue outfit, he strolled leisurely through the art exhibition space, exuding a deep and restrained feeling, suddenly feeling that the painting resembled the person; and in his words, it is not difficult to feel that artist’s pride, just like the angular geometric shapes.

    Pursuing the limited infinite

    He has been devoted to art for most of his life, and his endless passion is evident in his conversations. “What I pursue is uniqueness, which is very difficult. And when creating, you must forget about the painters you like, you have to learn from them but also forget about them, it’s very difficult.”

    Suddenly remembered when I was a child learning to draw, the teacher did not allow the use of tools such as compasses or rulers. He immediately responded, “I used to think like you, that it was not allowed, but later I found that this was wrong. Why not? So when I teach, I also teach students what tools to use to paste, to brush, feeling that this is completely free, and the effect will be better.”

    Breaking away from conventional ideas and creating something that others have never thought of is not easy. His works may seem light, but they are actually filled with depth of the soul, making his creations more and more vivid and distinct.

    He abandoned the limitations of surrealism and instead used a more free abstraction to express himself. How is this space actually arranged and constructed? He used building a house as a metaphor, “Each painting is a space, like having a piece of land for you to build a house on. You have to think about what you want to build, where to leave blank spaces, all of which you have to conceive yourself; and the shapes, lines, colors, light in the painting are all presented with elements that I like.”

    This is purely his creative tone, giving unique meaning and content to every line and dot under his pen. “I like minimalist art, the simpler the better, but the simpler it is, the harder it is to draw. Because it’s difficult to express something complex in simplicity.”

    The word “difficult” has appeared many times in the conversation, each time revealing his artistic spirit, complex and rich. The canvas is his artistic world, but this creative space is always limited. Speaking of this, he suddenly revealed a young vigor and rebellious retort, “This is not a worldview for me, but a cosmic view, because the worldview is too small for me.”

    Reunion・Return|Returning with Acclaim

    This is Huo Gang’s first time participating in the Art Basel in Hong Kong with Taipei’s “Cai Ni Art”, and also his first solo exhibition “Reunion・Return” in Hong Kong, which will continue to Nanjing for a dual-city exhibition, becoming an important milestone in his creative career.

    He shared, “Originally, I painted for the sake of interest, not for exhibitions. But later on, I wanted others to see my work, to receive criticism, so I could improve. I hope to receive criticism, not just praise, otherwise I can’t progress. When people point out my flaws, I will reflect on them. If it’s right, I will naturally make changes. If it’s not, then it doesn’t matter to me, haha.” Despite having been in the art scene for decades and having a significant influence, he remains humble, saying, “I dare not call myself advanced because there are so many humans. I am just painting myself. Perhaps in the eyes of others, I may seem advanced, but I don’t think so. I am just striving towards advancement.”

    The overlap and intertwining of these two places happen to perfectly showcase the roots and driving force behind Huo Gang’s creations. “For me, painting is a part of life. Life, meaning living for a purpose, so I do art not to eat, but I eat to do art. I don’t have the ability to be a scientist or philosopher, but what I am interested in, dedicate myself to, and research is a contribution to humanity, to pursue higher levels and fields.”

    In his unknown world, he has been exploring all the time, and he also has a message for dream pursuers: “Boldly pursue, do not be afraid, move forward bravely! This value may not be visible now, but it is infinite and will continue to affect us, like water in the desert.”

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