ESLITE GALLERY proudly presents the solo exhibition Shapes of Self-reflection by US-based artist Benrei HUANG from 3 to 31 July 2021. In the 14 years since the bunny character Nini was created in 2008, there have been no fewer than 100 stories surrounding it. Always sporting a pair of bright eyes, Nini's seemingly expressionless face hints at its composure regardless of how the world changes. Now that the world is facing the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, Nini is still here to soothe people's anxious hearts with its cool-as-a-cucumber attitude.
Shapes of Self-reflection features a total of 47 paintings and sculptures by Benrei HUANG from 2019 to 2021, during which the sudden global outbreak of COVID-19 has completely changed everyone's life. As such, this solo exhibition illustrates HUANG's contemplations and changes to her creations as well as life before and after the pandemic.
After her solo exhibition Minorities Rule at the ESLITE GALLERY at the end of 2018, HUANG returned to New York to continue to conceive new works. On with her usual peace and quiet life, HUANG admitted that at that time, 'My creativity seemed to be lethargic. My desire to create was like chewing wax, which doesn't taste very good.' She described herself of being wrapped inside a huge 'cocoon' of loneliness, almost suffocating. That was when she 'encountered' Kitano Takeshi's 2002 film Dolls. In one of the stories in the film, the female protagonist, emotionally betrayed by the male protagonist, becomes brain-damaged from a failed suicide attempt. The male protagonist tries to atone for his actions and ties a red rope between them. They wander through the countryside together as the days and seasons change. The irrevocable fate and the heart-wrenchingly poignant innocence somehow melted the cocoon around HUANG, allowing her to tap into the feeling of youth that she thought she had long forgotten. This state of mind unexpectedly echoes the romantic sensibility in her works Autumn makes its own spring when all leaves turn into flowers.
Benrei HUANG also introspects herself in the world of her creations. The free and easy spirits seen in the Ninis in Shapes of self-reflection mirror her own state of mind. But then in early 2020, the pandemic swept across the world and disrupted life in ways unimaginable. Living in hard-hit New York, everything came to a near standstill. Quiet on the surface, but people were anxious. HUANG believed that 'the Creator is giving us a shock test,' and that 'in 2019, the world was safe and people were free to do whatever they wanted, but came 2020, and obstacles were everywhere people turn.' After a whole year of living in dormancy and concentrating on creating, HUANG realised that 'God wants us to submit to Him. you can only submit to the will of God. Be quiet and reflect. Don't be opportunistic nor take things for granted.'
The Nini series has been ongoing for more than 10 years, and Nini has somewhat become HUANG's best creative partner. From the very beginning, Nini has been like HUANG's spokesperson, conveying her thoughts and feelings. Meanwhile, Nini lived up to the expectations of bringing comfort and healing to many people. 'Even if the world is heavy, your heart can be light.' Slowly, HUANG discovered that 'Nini has developed a life of its own. I often feel its eyes gazing at me, as if saying: Nini can stay the same, but you can't!' This push is exactly the artist's self-expectation for continuous breakthroughs and improvement in her creative vision.
Press release courtesy Eslite Gallery.
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From now until the end of May, ESLITE GALLERY will be temporarily closed for exhibition space renovation.