Leo Gallery Shanghai | Huang Liyan: Not Knowing Any Better

Source: Leo Gallery   Published: September 23, 2022


Huang Liyan: Not Knowing Any Better


Hosted by: Leo Gallery Shanghai

Curator: Feng Boyi


Opening: 4PM-6PM, September 24 

Duration: September 24 - October 30, 2022

Venue: Leo Gallery Shanghai


Opening Forum | After "Weightlessness" – Huang Liyan and His Paintings


Host: Feng Boyi (Curator)


Hu Bin (Professor and Dean of School of Arts and Humanities, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts

Huang Lihai (Poet)

Wang Xiaosong (Executive Director of Powerlong Museum, Art critic)

Huang Liyan (Artist)

Time: 2:30PM-4PM, September 24 

Venue: Leo Gallery Shanghai



Hosted by Leo Gallery Shanghai and curated by Feng Boyi, Not Knowing Any Better: Huang Liyan Solo Exhibition will be held on September 24 in both halls of Leo Gallery Shanghai. More than thirty pieces of his latest oil paintings will be displayed, showing his experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic prevention and his reflections on catastrophes on a global scale.


Huang Liyan is a sleepwalker who whispers in his daydreams, telling fables of the relationship between humans, as well as the relationship between human and nature. As his first solo exhibition in Shanghai, the show will feature works that are made with more of an outsider/spectator’s perspective, mixing and placing images of people, animals, artifacts, sceneries, and tangles of plants in the chaos of the world. The grotesque and paranoid images reveal an inscrutable inner world, a mysterious and twisted context with no clear answers. They are like inescapable imaginations, midnight nightmares without traces, integrated with his own experiences, memories and sensitivity, constituting the absurdity reflected in his works – seemingly real, but actually fictitious.


Perhaps the indiscernible illusion and visual dislocation of the images are a kind of inner tension and repression caused by his constant state of being “weightless”, showing his ability to step freely into a new context after stepping out of a “seemingly authentic” realism. The ongoing exploration of painting language and an intense obsession with oil painting have bridged the gap created by many leaps, as if indicating his improvisation and perseverance amid the noises of reality, which have become the hallmarks of his paintings in recent years.


Huang Liyan's artistic experiments and transformations of self-restraint or self-indulgence touch on an emotional or psychological authenticity, such as isolated emotions and self-respecting attitudes. They emphasize on the uncertain reality and future that he looks at among the uncertainties, instead of only the “definite meaning” that art in the past has paid attention to. For the viewers, facts in their imaginations are always distant, and more often than not, when everyday actions are transformed into paintings, one can only see fragments of them, or traces of frozen time and social emotions. To live concretely is far from being this easy. Hence, this exhibition can be seen as both the charm of Huang Liyan's art and the difference between him and the artists of his generation.





Huang Liyan has always created paintings that seemingly dance around the subject, echoing with the characteristics of their creator: self-aware, sensitive and at ease with being on the margins.


His artworks carry a sense of absurdity and dark humor, with scattered bits of romance inlaid on the canvases, giving birth to surreal scenes that are chaotic, distorted, perverted and fragmented. Mysterious and suspenseful atmospheres are leading nowhere like an untraceable nightmare. His works are claustrophobic and dead-end, but occasionally revealing the glory of “being weightless”. In fact, they embody his experience and perception of real-world situations, as well as the energy of his expression. The energy may seem to be unbearably light, but actually carries the full weight of life.


Huang Liyan does not portray life as a sense of powerlessness dominated by “the environment”. Rather, he realizes that he must stand up to the cruelty and helplessness of reality through his creations. He wades through traces of existence, like a wind blowing towards unknown faces, witnessing the “savage” growth of everything in this world.


I describe Huang Liyan as someone who is interesting but of no use, someone who does interesting yet useless things. However, Huang Liyan himself says: “I am actually someone who’s neither interesting nor of use.”


As if he didn’t know any better!


By Feng Boyi

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