Installation view of HUANG YUXING, New Order Hurtling Down the Proletariat, 2015–16, acrylic on canvas, 215 × 518 cm. Courtesy Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong.
Installation view of HUANG YUXING, New Order Hurtling Down the Proletariat, 2015–16, acrylic on canvas, 215 × 518 cm. Courtesy Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong.

And Ne Forhtedon Ná

Huang Yuxing

Galerie Perrotin
China Hong Kong

Fear plays an integral role in the human experience, sometimes as help by guiding us away from harmful activities or situations, but other times crippling us with irrational terror that impedes our everyday lives. Young Chinese artist Huang Yuxing, in his solo exhibition at Hong Kong’s Galerie Perrotin, explores the more subtle influences of fear signified by the title “And Ne Forhtedon Ná,” an Old English phrase from the tombstone inscription of the poet Jorge Luis Borges, which translates to “And Be Not Afraid."

HUANG YUXING, Trees of Maturity, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 176 × 230 cm. Courtesy Galerie Perrotin.

Huang approaches fear by evading stereotypical subjects of horror, such as public speaking or clowns, and dissects the concept through an examination of how this particular emotion has evolved over time, both on an individual and societal level. In New Order Hurtling Down the Proletariat (2015–16), Huang creates a visual depiction of the fear and confusion that accompany globalization, particularly pertaining to when a “proletariat” country is being forced to adopt and conform to the modern “New Order.” The colossal acrylic painting, measuring an impressive 215-by-518 centimeters, appears joyful and almost celebratory upon first impression, with intensely psychedelic colors and abstract organic shapes. However, on closer inspection, one sees that the circles form skulls—inspired by the Day of the Dead festival of Latin America—and the elongated ovals and rectangles become bones, all of which seem to float down a multicolor river. Crashing into the river are large geometric forms, symbolizing the advanced, technological world forcing its way into the proletariat societies, and evoking the fear of change that accompanies the imposition of globalization.

Shifting the focus onto existential fears—maturing, aging and, inevitably, death—Huang, in Trees of Maturity (2016), uses similar hallucinogenic colors, crystalline structures and organic shapes to create a metaphorical forest of inverted individuals, swathed in an unknown substance. Interestingly, the two most natural interpretations of the piece offer two opposite meanings, one decidedly pessimistic and the other optimistic. The wrapped figures, if interpreted as mummies, symbolize an unwavering journey through life with no other ending than death, and to join all those who came before. On the other hand, if the imagery is read as cocoons, the mood of the painting changes to one of initial trepidation followed by eventual transformation and embracing of beauty.

HUANG YUXING, Software Factory, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 202 × 275 cm. Courtesy Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong.

Standing out from the other works in the show is Software Factory (2016), composed primarily of geometric shapes that form into ambiguous technological apparatuses. The factory appears to be slowly melting or changing, with fluid mixtures of color spilling in from the top of the canvas. Huang utilizes the industrial setting to reflect upon the status quo, where people spend their lives endlessly working in order to develop skills and pass down what they have acquired to posterity. Whether or not a life spent upholding the social and commercial structure is good or bad does not matter in this painting. The simple passage between generations implies a fear for the fate of future generations, which relies on the actions of predecessors. The worry of potential inadequacy and its ramifications is eased when reminded of the work’s overarching title, “And Ne Forhtedon Ná.”

Huang stimulates a dialogue with his audience about fear, the most disturbing human emotion. Similar to his paintings, which use brilliant colors to contrast the somber undertone of the work, the artist suggests that fears are hidden behind the happy exterior of every individual.

Huang Yuxing’s “And Ne Forhtedon Ná” is on view at Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong, until October 15, 2016.