Saturday, April 26, 2008

Jing Yuan Huang
Transmigrating Inadequacy
Jan 9th - Feb 21, 2009
The Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba
Curated by Amber Andersen

NO MANS LAND: Introduction
As an immigrant to Canada and later to the United States, Jing Yuan Huang is both a participant and a keen observer of how identity is attached to place. Her interests are in the results achieved by removing people/objects from specific spaces. Originally from China, Huang has, as child and an adult, by force and by choice, been up-rooted or removed from one region/country to another. The artist’s transitory lifestyle is the focus of her art practice. Existing in a state of neither this nor that, Huang’s installation Transmigrating Inadequacy applies the theory of liminality. A conscious state of living that is on the threshold between two different existential planes, liminality provides Huang and her audience with a way to understand the experiences of immigration. Her exhibition, Transmigrating Inadequacy, captures and confronts feelings of disorientation, dislocation, and finally resolution through the voice of a self-proclaimed diasporic immigrant to North America.

NEITHER THIS NOR THAT: Transmigrating Inadequacy – Brandon Series
The installation Transmigrating Inadequacy – Brandon Series involves several different procedures. Starting as drawings/paintings, Huang photographs the works, re-capturing them in black and white photography to create photograms. The resulting photographs are then scanned onto a computer to become digital representations. In the last process, the works are printed out, enlarged and photocopied onto the tabloid (11’’ by 17’’) sized paper. Afterwards the Xeroxed papers are pieced together to create extremely large-scale installation pieces. Both the installation and the images presented in this exhibition elicit feelings of fragility and temporality. The images are composed of mixtures of abstract line work, washes, fragmented representations of female figures, and aspects of the Chinese creation myth. The representations/images for Huang have equal importance to the processes used to create them. Both reference transitions from one state of being to another, mimicking the experience of moving from one country to another, of shift, removal, and re-birth. However, with all regenerations, there are elements that are lost and specific ones that are gained.

A person’s place of origin is important. It can represent a multitude of things such as custom, belief, and race. Where a person has come from defines aspects of who they are. This part of our identity, already a complex issue for most and especially in a post-colonial society, becomes even more difficult when issues of migration/diaspora are added into the mix. Transmigrating Inadequacy – Brandon Series is a response to these complexities.

The “Brandon Series” of Transmigrating Inadequacy – Brandon Series title references the fact that this particular installation was created specifically for the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba. As with all installation art, it was created with a particular space in mind. Meant to alter the way an environment is experienced and/or perceived, installation art allows Huang to confront audiences’ expectations while also disorienting them in a space that is familiar. This underlines and echoes Huang’s thesis. The concept of the work remains the same but its external environment influences character. In terms of spatial matters, Transmigrating Inadequacy – Brandon Series exists in a liminal state. Exhibited previously in Kamloops and Chicago, the Brandon series remains in a state of limbo, physically different yet conceptually the same as in either city. Continually changing scale and installation from (mural vs. Tapestry vs. floor piece) this particular work exists in a state of neither this nor that, never being fully assimilated, permanent to one scale or particular layout.

Beyond challenging the viewer’s expectations of what they see in a gallery, for example, paintings and sculptures, Huang also questions how they see it. Certainly, there are technologies available to create large format works, instead of using multiple smaller papers. Huang intentionally chooses photocopies. The tiled Xeroxes create a grid, thus breaking with the seamless viewing pleasure offered by murals/paintings/photos, etc… What this grid does is create yet another moment of disruption hinting that there is more to Huang’s work than meets the eye.

BETWIXT AND BETWEEN: Inadequate Transmigration-underwater Series
In previous work, Huang has explored the act of removal. In the series entitled Anachronism, 2005, Huang depicted imagery of Terracotta warriors found in the tomb of Qin Shi Huang Di. Thousands of these life-sized sculptures surrounded the first emperor of China’s final resting place. Through this work, Huang connected with her Chinese history and identity. However, in removing detail and exaggerating/diminishing bodily perspective, Huang created her own version of her Chinese legacy, adding her own narratives while removing traditional associations with these sculptures. Huang continues to explore these concerns in Inadequate Transmigration_underwater series. These four works are variations on originals consisting of pen and acrylic on paper. Unlike the large overwhelming works in Transmigrating Inadequacy – Brandon Series, these works are small and intimate. Also containing aspects of the Chinese creation myth and the female form, these organic and fluid works exist in a state of being neither abstract nor strictly image based. Rather, Huang’s fusions of both styles create “an aesthetic of interchange, erosion, and synthesis”, referencing, once again, her intention to connect her art practice to her life experiences both emotionally, and conceptually.

The Inadequate Transmigration_underwater series, unlike the Transmigrating Inadequacy – Brandon Series, remains fixed. The synthesis of both abstract and representational models evokes an image that is lyrical and exists between two positions. However, Huang is also exploring the limitations of liminality. Based in anthropology, liminality cannot exist as a permanent condition. Eventually all humans and Huang herself must either assimilate into the social structure or operate outside of it. We cannot continually live in a state of betwixt and between. In Huang’s case, she learned English and became part of an education system, thus adapting to her environment and becoming absorbed into societal structure. Although no longer in a liminal state, she can still feel that she exists amid two worlds, between eastern and western hemispheres. Although able to return to her native land where she would be accepted, the question remains; would she be able to “belong” in the same way she did before she left. Huang, like her works, is altered, a composition of hybrid realities.

For Huang, the well worn phrase “it’s the journey, not the destination” rings as true for her artistic processes as it does for her own travels. The numerous procedures Huang uses to create her work metaphorically stand in places for the artist’s many dislocations. Whether created by machine or hand, it is in these processes that we see Huang’s perspective on identity reflecting alienation, loss, resolution, removal, and finally, synthesis.

Amber Andersen
Curator, Exhibtions and Education AGSM, 2008

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