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  • Oct 09, 2020

Obituary: Huang Xiaopeng (1960–2020)

Portrait of HUANG XIAOPENG. Courtesy Para Site, Hong Kong.

On October 6, Shanxi-born multimedia artist, researcher, and art educator Huang Xiaopeng passed away from a heart attack at the age of 60 in Berlin, where he had been living in recent years.

Huang was a member of the Southern Artist Salon, a student-led artist group that emerged in Guangzhou during China’s ’85 New Wave movement, and was also committed to educating the next generation of artists with his innovative teaching methods. In his own artworks he employed video and created installations to investigate the phenomena of things being “lost in translation” and displacement in the context of globalization and cultural exchange.

His multicultural practice stemmed from his experience of residing in different cities throughout his life. Following his graduation from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 1983, he moved to the United Kingdom in 1989 to pursue a master's degree at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. He returned to Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 2003 to take on the role of associate professor, and went on to found the experimental Fifth Studio within the department of oil paintings, one of the earliest contemporary art programs in China's post-secondary institutions. He left this position in 2012, and along with artist Xu Tan, co-founded the nonprofit HB Station in Guangzhou, which has hosted annual research-based projects and residency programs for artists, writers, and activists. He later also taught at Guangzhou’s College of Fine Arts at South China Normal University, and was a university fellow at Hong Kong Baptist University. Many Guangzhou-based artists active today were his students, including Song Ta, Lin Aojie, and the artist duo Mountain River Jump!.

Huang’s works have been exhibited internationally, including in the shows “The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away,” at Guangzhou’s Times Museum (2017); “A Hundred Years of Shame – Songs of Resistance and Scenarios for Chinese Nations,” at Hong Kong’s Para Site (2015); a group exhibition with Giorgio Andreotta Calo and Jalal Toufic at London’s Whitechapel Gallery (2011). He also particiapted in the 3rd Guangzhou Triennial in 2008, and contributed towards a critical essay, “Education as an Art Project,” in Printed Projects 11, published in 2009 for the 53rd Venice Biennale. His best-known artwork, K.O.H.D. (2014), is a 60-second video with a title inspired by the song “Knockin' on Heaven’s Door,” in which he juxtaposed mistranslations from Google with video footage from global films and commercials.

In response to Huang's passing, curator Hou Hanru posted a tribute on WeChat on October 7, saying, “No matter where Huang was, he always seemed to be living in a transition state. He often had to face different languages and the cultural differences behind these languages, trying to find shelter among these translations. It was exactly this quest that inspired him to answer the most important question in his life, which was art.” Hong Kong-based artist Ma Yujiang also paid tribute to Huang, reflecting on their friendship and time spent together in Hong Kong.

Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor. 

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