Born in 1952
Painter, sculptor, photographer and performance artist – but also a committed participant in the society of his time – the multi-talented Huang Rui (b. 1952) keeps popping up everywhere in the brief history of contemporary art in China.
In 1979 he was one of the most active members of "The Stars", China's first avant-garde movement: five painters, sculptors and poets. Together they laid the foundations of contemporary art in China, choosing new subjects and forms of expression and, especially, overtly keeping their distance from the state art system. Stars exhibitions toured a number of provinces for two years and in 1980 their review Today was banned for appearing without official permission.
Self-taught, but a student of calligraphy since the age of five, Huang Rui in the early 1980s was already producing paintings marked by his characteristic rigorousness and a close resemblance to the Western painting he had not yet had access to. A change of direction came with his first term of exile in Japan (1984–92), when he began producing large canvases and calligraphic installations.
In 1993 he laid the groundwork for a new artistic period that has now lasted more than ten years. Here text is omnipresent, not as something secondary, but as image, content and form. In his hands political phrases from the great leaders of the Communist Party and slogans that have orchestrated the lives of entire generations in China emerge as characters painted on enormous canvases, printed texts and printer's characters, sculptures, installations and even performances: all are marked by a minimalist approach to execution. Full of humour, these text games reveal the artist's engagement with the serious world around him. On his return from a second spell of exile in Japan (1994–2001) Huang Rui set up house in Peking, where he founded the Dashanzi art neighbourhood – also known as 798 – and the DIAF, the Dashanzi International Art Festival.