INTERVIEW WITH GAO HANG


Honesty, truth, and the blunt reality: The documentation of social phenomenon through the art of humor. 

 



AA00

Where did you grow up?


G.H

China, more specifically Baoding and Beijing.



A00

What was childhood like?


G.H

Happy, cry without worrying, and laugh without worrying. Nothing bad happened to me, which is great.



A00

Some of your work really reflects your background as a Chinese artist. Like "Proud to download for free 2". Were you a bit of a gamer back in the days?


G.H

I like it when I first start a game with all other rookies, then I would be destroyed and humiliated by the pro-level gamers online, that’s when I would quit playing that game for good.



A00

The Chinese background is particularly interesting because some of the references are harder for westerners to pick up on. Like one of your paintings: "Oops, sh*t - Bakayaro". Probably the one Japanese phrase somehow all Chinese know.


G.H

Yes, that’s why I also put “oops, shit” in the title so that everyone could understand. Also, identity is not part of my game so you don’t really need to understand the literal title to appreciate my works.



A00

Did you paint from a young age?


G.H

Oh hell yes.



A00

Growing up in China, what's the best memory you have from your childhood?


G.H

My friends and I would shoot each other with BB guns in our neighborhood without any protection.



A00

Some of your work plays with the idea of race and stereotype. "Proud to be an Asian", "We Always Pay Cash", "Please select your stereotype". What is it like being an Asian artist on the western side of the world?


G.H

I think everyone has their own universe growing up. So given that everyone is different, being Asian or not Asian doesn’t really matter.



A00

What inspired you to do what you do?


G.H

It was pretty natural when I was a kid because my parents are both really good at drawing and painting. So, it was my parents in the very beginning.



A00

Your parents are also artists?


G.H

No, they're not. They just always enjoyed making art.



A00

What's your studio like now?


G.H

A tiny working space because the airbrush will dust on everything badly. But I do have a home gallery space for a self-critic.



A00

Do you listen to music when you work?


G.H

No.



A00

Before starting your day, do you have any daily routines or rituals you go through?


G.H

I would pointlessly surf on social media and YouTube while making a lot of screenshots. Or read a few pages from the book of an artist I'm currently studying.



A00

What sort of role do would you say artists have in society?


G.H

It depends on what media an artist is using. But overall, art is a subject that is being studied by an artist.



A00

So, similar to how a doctor studies medicine. Is there any artist you look up to? Inspired by?


G.H

So many of them, I am recently studying Agnes Martin.



A00

Living through such a diverse, and somewhat strange era, are there any social or cultural phenomena that you find especially inspiring? or fascinated by?


G.H

I don't think this era is stranger than any other eras in history or in the coming future. It is what it is, nobody is easier, and no era is better. What I do is embracing what’s happening now and finding my honest voice to document it.



A00

Fair enough. So your work is mirroring the society we live in?


G.H

Absolutely.



A00

Your work references a diverse range of modern social phenomena. Sports, capitalism, consumerism, beauty standards, technology, and social expectations...the list goes on. What would you say you are trying to achieve as an artist?


G.H

It’s like standup comedy, it talks about everything yet it is just a high-quality negotiation between the comedian and the feedback of the audience. What I want to achieve is offering good quality negotiation and conversation on given canvas surfaces.



A00

Your honest voice depicted in your work is often blunt, ironic, and packaged with humor. The negotiation between the artist and the viewer you mentioned, why is that important? Why is this conversation important to you?


G.H

It is actually the negotiation between the artist and the materials one is working with, not the viewer.



A00

If honesty and the expression of opinion, and the documentation of reality are important, what sort of role does humor play in your work?


G.H

Humor could help me deliver my opinions more effectively.



A00

Humor is often a painkiller to the problematic reality. We get this feeling from a few of your works. Like "A Very Green Card", "Please punch me in the face for my YouTube channel", and "I am so Pro-Liquify".


G.H

Thanks. When honesty is developed with a certain intensity, it will look humorous, doesn't it?




A00

Certainly does. When you're working on a new piece, I'm sure there's time to time where you hit that wall, perhaps feeling stuck or unsure. What do you do to get back on track? or find Peace?


G.H

I would keep working on the next piece. I accept the fact that every job could go downhill sometimes but it doesn’t mean I should stop doing what I like.



A00

Earlier you mentioned that you surf social media from time to time. Knowing that your opinion, sometimes a humorous criticism, on human behavior can be incredibly blunt and honest. What do you think of the social media-addicted generations of youngsters?


G.H

I think it’s the power of anonymousness, and the right of speech that they think they had, versus the brutal reality. This conflict has generated a lot of side effects, social media addiction is a being one.



A00

Your recent solo's title 'Instant Gratification' is referencing this phenomenon?


G.H

At some point, yes.



A00

Your honesty and bluntness can be interpreted as rebellious tio some extent. Perhaps because of how straight and dierectly it conveys the reality. Would you say that rebellion is a part of your intention?


G.H

I am sorry you felt that way.



A00

Not rebellious in a way that it's offensive. Rebellious in a way that it shines the undeniable truth in a very direct and straight manner.

Here's a random question. NBA comes up several times in your work. Favorite team?


G.H

It use to be the Rockets, now the Lakers.



A00

Name your starting five (past players included).


G.H

I love this question: T-Mac, Kidd, Garnet, Magic, Yao



A00

Man, that would be a beasty team. Your painting "Not on my motherf**king watch!" says a lot about your love for Yao Ming. What do you think of the current NBA?


G.H

I think the way they kept practicing and expanding the 3-pointer range will finally destroy the fun of basketball.



A00

Totally agree. Your painting, "B31O1O4<<<" tells us that you lived through the gold era of Counter Strike. Did you enjoy planting the bomb or diffusing one?


G.H

I thought the bomb thing is a bummer. I liked how players would just shoot at each other, the bomb thing is just all too sneaky.



A00

You mentioned the importance of documentation and honesty. This both reflects your experience of the material world. Do you ever wonder or fantasize about the future? What the future could or should be?


G.H

Yes. I think immersive virtual, even simulated physical reality is the future and I cannot wait to witness it happening.



A00

One more thing, and our last question. Tell us a secret!


G.H

I like turtles.
 
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