When You Rise

29 June - 14 August 2022

Ora-Ora is pleased to announce a thrilling new solo show by Beijing-based artist Huang Dan at its Tai Kwun gallery in Hong Kong. The show runs from June 29 to August 7, 2022.


Titled When You Rise, Huang Dan presents her new Gold Series for the first time in a gallery exhibition (some of the series were recently shown at Art Basel Hong Kong in May 2022). The series is made of gold leaf on canvas, which represents a new approach for an artist previously known for her ink on paper. 


The title is a reference to 1969 Beatles’ classic “Golden Slumbers”, a paeon to the carefree days of childhood and the peaceful night of sleep that only a child may know. The lyric “When You Rise” alludes to waking for a new day. In paintings Tranquillity and Composure, the artist portrays that empty midpoint between calm inaction and active agency, which is analogous to the moment of waking. We all leave the world of infancy behind to challenge and navigate the world on our own terms, and “Golden Slumbers” is a title of optimism and of possibility, befitting a new day, and fresh evidence of Huang Dan’s quest to frame her philosophy in bold new ways. 


In When You Rise, Huang Dan  references the use of gold in iconography, and its later contemporary manifestations by artists such as Gustav Klimt. Where gold was once used as a background, bathing the mortal in the shimmering light of heavenly rays, she instead places gold centre stage. 


Her subjects include themes and motifs that are central to Huang Dan’s practice: horses, snakes, monkeys and mountain ranges are all represented. Alchemizing ink into fluid gilt, she continues to deny any narrative or motives on the part of the creatures traced and illustrated. Huang Dan once described this journey towards the minimal, “from much, to half, to less… to none.” In this show, the artist depicts states of separation and of unity with the same dispassionate eye. Even group scenes are devoid of story or intent. Where animals appear together, such as in Parallel and Equanimity, Huang Dan simultaneously radiates the aura of affection and family, whilst continuing on a path towards nothingness and abstraction. 


For an artist whose handling of ink on paper has been a lifelong commitment, the radical pivot to gold creates inherent opportunities. Visually, this is a surface which reflects, denies transparency and obviates scrutiny. Symbolically, this is a medium which projects power. Emerging from a dark background, gold looms from the twilight, both illuminating and dominating.


Huang Dan’s use of gold is itself an acknowledgement of the lasting fascination and value of this most desired commodity. The artist’s constancy in her choice of imagery forms a natural echo with the immutable attractions of gold itself. Huang Dan’s horses, whose contours form a subliminal connection to the shan shui paintings of the classical past add to a sense of the timeless and the immoveable. In the thousands of years that gold has been sourced, mined and craved by mankind it retains a powerful combination of warmth, power, mysticism and portable value to those that collect it. From “Goldfinger” to the Gold Standard, it straddles the cultural and economic sagas of our recent memory.


Whilst gold represents solidity of form and constancy of value, it is also adaptable, fungible and versatile. Visitors to the show are encouraged to come back repeatedly, to observe how light changes the paintings themselves at various times of day. As Huang Dan seeks the patterns and rhythms in life, she creates images which constantly morph and reform according to the prevailing light and shades. The animals become a proxy for the vicissitudes of a changing universe, forging their own path, at once static and unpredictably varied.


As Huang Dan journeys towards abstraction, these paintings are a departure and a continuation all at once. The title “When You Rise” allows the visitor to reflect on new beginnings, possibilities, dreams and intentions, as the world wakes up.

Installation Views