Pin-Ling Huang :Scenery Outside the Windows

Pin-Ling Huang :
Scenery Outside the Windows

2023.11.22 - 12.23

@Pin-ling Huang
Press Release

Venue: nca | nichido contemporary art
Date: 11.22 (Wed.) – 12.23 (Sat.), 2023
Gallery hours: tue. – sat. / 11:00 – 19:00 (closed on sun., mon., and on national holidays)
Opening reception: 11.22 (Wed.) 17:00~19:00 *artist in attendance

nca | nichido contemporary art is pleased to present Taiwanese artist Pin-Ling Huang’s solo show Scenery Outside the Windows. Each of Huang’s paintings hides sketches and drawings made by the artist. The combination of colors wrapped by a transparent softeness and the smooth brushstrokes creates a unique world where we are faced with Huang’s landscapes which, while fictional, seems to simultaneously evoke nostalgia and closeness in the viewer. The works showcased in Scenery Outside the Windows are representations of a variety of window-landscapes found by the artist on social networks. Daily checking the beautiful images constantly uploaded on Instagram, featuring lavish plants and light pouring from windows, Huang is creating new imagery while traveling back and forth between micro and macro perspective respectively of the screen and the canvas, intricately fascinated by the conventional landscape lying in the background.

When landscape painting becomes a mirror: exploring Ping-Ling Huang’s new body of works.

Internalized Landscapes

Pin-Ling Huang is a Taiwan-based painter. After receiving a B.F.A. from Taipei National University of the Arts, Huang moved to Paris in 2011 where she earned her DNSAP (National Superior Art Degree) from the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris, in 2014. Since 2022 she has been joining a one-year artist-in-residence program offered by Koganecho Area Management Center in Yokohama, Japan.
On this occasion, I would like to discuss Huang’s new body of works, which I first saw while still in progress, created by the artist in her Yokohama’s studio during her residency. I feel compelled to say that this is actually the only body of works by Huang I will be exploring here. While extensive information regarding Huang’s previous works is available on the artist’s website, I could not gather the necessary visual information, in terms of texture, materials, and so forth, to expand my analysis. Therefore, what I would like to do here is to address what I believe to be Huang’s focal aspects from my understanding of her artistic practice.
Then, let’s start by looking at the two main stylistic approaches which seem to be characterizing her new paintings: some parts of the canvas have been covered by layered, elaborated brushstrokes, closer indeed to a figurative approach rather than to an abstract one, yet, others present large brushstrokes which create some sort of flowing effect, reminiscent of abstract painting. Nevertheless, both styles find their common grounds in Huang’s use of the same two colors: green and gradated blue. In other words, it feels as if the equation nature/landscape embodies the very foundation of Huang’s work.
As explained by Huang herself, the more delicate brushstrokes represent landscapes as seen through windows, yet, they are not renderings of real landscapes but images the artist found on social networks; on the other hand, it is the artist’s recollections of the different landscapes she has personally experienced and elaborated through her senses to be informing her large brushstrokes.
Now, the idea of landscape as seen through a window, or as the world that exists beyond that window finds its roots in the 15th century: an example of such construction is provided by On Painting by Leon Battista Alberti, the first to put the theory of linear perspective into writing, and who, in his book, compared a picture frame to an open window. It is the so-called transparency theory, however, in Huang’s case, what we are dealing with is a landscape seen from an actual transparent, glass window, in the most literal sense of the word. Yet, the transparency we are faced with when looking through Huang’s window seems to be closer, rather than to real transparency, to what architect and architectural critic Colin Rowe and painter and architectural theorist Robert Slutsky defined in their book Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal, published in 1963, as phenomenal transparency. On top of that, here we are talking of SNS images discovered by the artist on the web, which, to begin with, are not real images per se. We should look at the architectural window Alberti refers to in the 15th century as a look cast directly from a window open on the world outside rather than a glance filtered by today’s transparent, high-quality glass. And while we as humans obviously still process visual information through the retina, what we are surrounded by is countless visual imagery, reaching us from every corner of the world, that has been digitally altered, precisely representing an instance of that very phenomenal transparency.
In addition, Huang writes down sketches and drawings on her notebook almost as if it were some sort of journal. While in the form of sketches or drawings, they are also memos of Huang’s personal thoughts. There are instances, of course depending on the artist, where sketches and drawings involved in the making of a given artwork are presented together with the completed piece, however, sometimes, as it is in Huang’s case, the thought process stubbornly stays hidden as the process behind the finished work. For that matter, it may be misleading to talk here about a process through which the work reaches its final form as the memories Huang has experienced so far and that she keeps revisiting and rewriting, rather than being reduced to mere “material” only functional to the completion of her paintings, seem to have become a living entity whose chaotic nature cannot be defined or contained.
Looking at Huang’s personal story, we know that she has experienced life in Europe - in Paris and the South of France to be precise - as mentioned in the introduction. Like the Northern old masters before her, Huang, too, felt all the strikingly different possibilities of the light of Southern France’s sky. Furthermore, as pointed out by Taiwanese independent curator and art critic Li-Hao Chong in his essay A Brushstroke, a Poetic Floating, we can clearly see Haung’s passion for literature which stretches beyond art-related publications, spanning a myriad of genres, a passion that has been accompanying her artistic practice. For Huang it is not about seeking after those books that can conjure up certain visual imagery: she reads trying to capture stories that can brace the turmoil and melancholy she feels, themes that deeply fascinate her.
Such a stance does not point the way to the completion of the work but, instead, enables Huang’s paintings to withhold her own emotional conflict, allowing it to keep lingering there on the canvas, bringing us back exactly to what we said about her memos.
As a last remark about Huang’s work, I think it is also possible to approach it as landscape painting, at least in the broad sense of the term. What I mean by saying in the broad sense of the term is that, if we look back at the historical transitions landscape painting went through, it feels as if the overall shared starting point had always been to recreate an existing landscape. Particularly, in Europe, where the hierarchy of genres in painting in the years preceding the advent of modern art saw at the top history/narrative painting (ergon), landscape art seemed to be treated as nothing more than an incidental experiment because of its own subject (parergon).
Although I will not expand on this here, it was in the 17th century that landscape painting finally became a genre of its own and, nowadays, the representation of a landscape can go as far as to mirror the artist’s inner world, or provide them with a medium through which engage with different perspectives. As a matter of fact, the nostalgia we experience in our everyday life when looking at a certain landscape is not triggered by some specific elements (trees, mountains, etc.), but, more often than not, is connected to the atmosphere we breathe in that specific place. We feel drawn to “that something” we perceive when looking at the light on a certain day, or when observing the landscape from a particular angle.
And, through Huang’s paintings, we are experiencing a world that feels cozy at times, yet, strangely unfamiliar at others: a mirror of Huang’s constant self-questioning that is iterated throughout her artistic practice, producing changes in her expressive style. That is why I believe Huang’s work is scattered by such incredible richness of expressions.

Taro Amano
Chief Curator
Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery

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