by Alice Gee
Chinese translation by Frank Fang
In 2019 Han Feng moved with his family from Shanghai to Berlin. After establishing his new studio, he began working on a new series of paintings in which the support – the ‘stretcher’ – comprises an object, usually a household item Han Feng found in a junkshop in the city. Sometimes the objects are religious. Importantly, each object has a history but one which remains hidden, disguised, masked and elided but not destroyed. Some hang on walls like totems. Others occupy a space – a hallway, a living room – like a tear in reality. Each work presents as a ghost, a cipher, but they are also meditations on fundamental art dualities, such as painting/support, revelation/effacement and subject/object.
Ran Dian commissioned Alice Gee to write a story about Han Feng’s new works. You can read The Maschkera here. During her research for the story, Alice conducted an interview with Han Feng by WeChat. An edited version of the interview appears here.
Alice Gee: How would you describe these works to a child?
Han Feng: I would describe in great detail these works in terms of their characteristics. Given their age, I would prefer to ask a child how they would describe the work. Art explains itself.
What was the inspiration for this project?
If thereʻs a disturbance within your home, however slight, you will feel uncomfortable, with a strong feeling of being unadapted. This happens when a new, obscure thing is placed in a familiar place like a small toy hidden under the carpet.
I draw inspiration from the Taoist literary tradition. I create pieces intended to evolve over time and change with nature. I use the objects of the room as materials, keeping true to scale. For example, I said this sentence, but I don’t want to modify it too much. This sentence is not perfect because of the limitation of the material itself. Its characteristics are the characteristics of the material itself. Its defects are caused by the material itself. I donʻt cover up the defects, I highlight their anomaly. Sometimes, half of the painting is finished and the other half is completed by time. I am interested in the blur between spaces.
My new pieces act like containers whose presence are defined by their absence. They are colorful illusions meant to conflate accustomed spatial notions. In this way, they can be also viewed as playful precautionary reminders.
How did you make these works? What was your process?
The linen covers the frame of an object, such as an old painted, family portrait. The canvas is made taunt, the primer is painted, and then the portrait is removed.
How do you use colour, texture,scale and shape in these works?
I use the objects of the room as materials, keeping true to scale. For example, I said this sentence, but I don’t want to modify it too much. This sentence is not perfect because of the limitation of the material itself. Its characteristics are the characteristics of the material itself. Its defect is caused by the material itself. I donʻt cover up this defect, I highlight the anomaly of it. Sometimes, half of the painting is finished and the other half is completed by time.
How does this project follow on from your previous works?
It is a continuation of my work concerning the strange within the familiar and the familiar within the strange.
How does this project differ from your previous works?
Before there was filled space, now there is empty space. Before I filled the space, now the background becomes the filled space. Before – object; now, it is an assumed presence.
What emotions do you hope to elicit from the audience standing in front of these works?
A general emotion is not hoped for. An illusion can often become conflation. Perhaps, it’s a warning. I would like people to see how they perceive.
Are you inspired by literature?
I draw inspiration from the Taoist literary tradition.
What do you think Covid-19 tells us about the modern world?
The virus was originally in an unknown space. It is a part of nature. Man is a virus that is actively encountered, [it is] not a virus that has encountered a person.