“Beautiful things are the basis of sadness.”

b. Jishou City, Hunan Province, 1985. Lives and works in Changsha.

Huang Xiaoliang explores the shadowlands of memory. Inspired by childhood recollections of traditional shadow puppet shows, and by faded traces of the past on city walls, not yet erased by modernisation, his works are infused with nostalgia. For him, the camera is a piece of ‘light and shadow imaging equipment.’ Huang’s still images and videos are powerfully nostalgic: projected shadows position audiences somewhere between a nostalgic dream of a lost ‘floating world’ and an anxious fear of the uncanny.

Huang sees the artist as a watchful bystander. In the 2016 Window series of video projections, people are silhouetted in dimly lit windows repeating mundane actions. His shadowy subjects lose their individuality, becoming almost generic: Walking – Boy and Walking – Man could be any boy, any man. Window – Makeup, Window – Boy and Window – Man place the viewer, too, in the position of a voyeur. We are outside looking in at a world at once strange and familiar. The evocative East Window series of photographs refers to a Chinese idiom that, literally translated, means ‘the affair of the East Window is exposed’. An ancient Chinese myth tells of a Southern Song Dynasty official who plotted an assassination beneath the east window of the palace; he was overheard, and the plot came to light. Now, it refers to a secret exposed to the light of day. Layering several photographs shot in evening light in Changsha, Huang projects a transparency, and re-shoots and re-colours this shadow of the original. Huang says, ‘the way we live is floating and uncertain, so it is easy to look for lost beauty in our memories.’

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