artnet Asks: Ran Huang

This acclaimed filmmaker is often inspired by what he finds on Tumblr.

Ran Huang Photo: Courtesy the artist and Simon Lee Gallery

Though it’s multifarious in media—encompassing video, photography, painting, and sculpture—Ran Huang’s art is held constant by his testing of conceptual and visual perception. With his art he tries to put forth his own understanding of pleasure, love, and violence. He is arguably best known for his films such as Lucidity (2012) and Fake Action Truth (2009), both of which received critical acclaim. His films and art have been exhibited internationally, including at Art Basel in Switzerland, Long March Space in Beijing, and the 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale. He currently lives and works in Beijing and London.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
When I was around 16, I started to hate school. School became a problem for me, or I became a problem for school. Even though I had no idea what contemporary art was at the moment, I was drawn to the freedoms that came with being an artist, and the intoxicating feeling that came with particular kinds of concern. I found this attractive, mysterious, even, perhaps, the speciousness of it was interesting. I started to learn drawing and painting myself before I went to art college.

Ran Huang, Disruptive Desires, Tranquility and the Loss of Lucidity, 2012 Film Still Photo: courtesy Simon Lee Gallery

Ran Huang, Disruptive Desires, Tranquility and the Loss of Lucidity (2012)
Film still.
Photo courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery.

What inspires you?
I read almost everything around me, from news and gossip to critical writing and philosophy. Sometimes a picture from Tumblr can be a lot more significant than a serious book for me. Sometimes, I will read the same book for six months. I like to collect all fragments in a folder named “Gelded Eyes” on my computer; it’s a big mess. I keep adding stuff, and frequently go back to browsing through them. Basically, I have a very messy work habit. I remember I was in New York last year, and every day after dinner at Chinese restaurants, they gave me a couple fortune cookies, and I was a bit addicted to finding out what was inside. That is where I got the [inspiration for] the shooting scene in my last film, The Administration Of Glory.

Ran Huang,  Blithe Tragedy(2010) Film Still  Photo: courtesy Simon Lee Gallery

Ran Huang, film still from Blithe Tragedy (2010)
Photo courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery.

If you could own any work of modern or contemporary art, what would it be?
There are many artists I like, but if I could choose, I would have a Martin Kippenberger painting. I find through his practice, he was constantly showing his urge to communicate something, but at the same time, the very process of communication was canceling the whole exchange. Sometimes the most serious critical attitude we have is something hypocritical that is canceling itself out without our notice.

Ran Huang,  There used to be an animal similar to a cat, only bigger... Mixed media, 123 x 141 x 74 in  Photo: artnet Price Database

Ran Huang, There used to be an animal similar to a cat, only bigger… (2014)
Photo courtesy of the artnet Price Database.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am preparing my next film at the moment, still in the very early stages. I am doing lots of research, piecing the idea together from many fragments. Meanwhile, I am doing an ongoing “self-portrait” painting project I started earlier this year, as well as some installation ideas I’ve had in mind for awhile. I like doing lots of things at the same time.

When not making art, what do you like to do? 
I like to gamble if I am not making art; I play Texas Hold’em poker. I like that sort concentration of losing or winning. At certain points, things will be simultaneously solid and fragile.


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