Poster of Tattoo Utopia 426x598 - Leo Gallery presents "Huang Yan Solo Exhibition: Tattoo Utopia" in Hong Kong

Wearing landscapes on our skin and body reminds us of the importance of Chinese artistic heritage in each and every Chinese people’s life. Two decades after Huang Yan has published the series “Chinese Shan-shui Tattoo”, which was about harmonious interaction between human beings and nature, Leo Gallery Hong Kong is delighted to present to “Tattoo Utopia” to the Hong Kong audience. This collection is also known as the most representative and unique works of artist Huang Yan.

Starting from 21 September to 15 November, the public can appreciate 13 “Chinese Shan-shui Tattoo” unique photography artworks by Huang Yan. All these exquisite photographs have been exhibited in world-renowned museums such as National Art Museum of China in Beijing, Musee du Louvre in Paris and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, just to name a few.

In the early 90s, Huang Yan realized that traditional art and contemporary art are deeply connected and can never be isolated from each other. From that moment, he has started to paint Sung and Yuan Dynasty landscapes (“Shan-shui”) on human face (1994), on body (1995), and finally on canvas (1998). He was very awed by the unlimited room for imagination in the process of transferring image from paper to “human canvas”. Afterwards, landscape painting on human body caused a revolutionary rebirth of traditional art form in the modern context. During this process, Huang Yan found the art of turning back the clock, and the way to draw the audiences’ attention towards the relationship between ancient culture and daily life.

At the same time, Leo Gallery Shanghai is holding another solo exhibition “The Shan-shui Worldview” of Huang Yan. Together they wish to celebrate together the great contribution of his works to the contemporary art history.

Artist Statement

Tattoo Memories + Literati’s Utopia = Art Utopia

Throughout the ages, countless literati have come and gone. He has built them in the utopia to seek the ultimate truth but every single one winds up in the earthly life of endless suffering.

When it was my turn to walk the Earth, in 1994, I recreated the narratives hidden in landscapes, flowers & plants and natural sceneries painted by Tao Yuanming, a literatus from the Six Dynasties, on my own mortal flesh. This moment manifested my destiny as a “Post-Literati Artist” under the umbrella of Art of Enlightenment. The venture can be traced back to the year 1978 when I started painting landscapes as a student of Wang Huai, a “Literati Artist” who was once a gardener working in the People’s Park of Changchun, the capital city of my hometown Jilin. In Jilin City, along the river bank of Songhua River, lies a settlement embraced by the mountains where I was born in 1966. In the blink of an eye, 52 summers and winters have passed by. I carried my mortal burden and traversed marvelous and delightful lands and rivers of my motherland, and in 1988 I stepped out to witness the grandeur of mountains and waters beyond the Chinese border. This might as well echo with the proverb “with the knowledge of ten thousand books in his head and the trail of ten thousand miles at his back” as well, favoured by Chinese literati. My 52 years on Earth expressed in days would amount to 18993, and 455832 in hours, and 2734992 in minutes, and 1640995200 in seconds, and 1640995200000 in milliseconds… a division without end. Mao Zedong once wrote lofty sentiments, “Eighty thousand miles a day, travelled as you sit still.”

Who am I? I am an artist. I dwell in the “tattoo landscape” of my own invention musing over the past. First, I liberated my own self: I liberated my association with mountains, my spiritual being, my inherent temperaments; I also liberated my nature derived from the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth.

Showcasing my “Shan-shui Tattoo” body painting series in photography is tantamount to sending a myriad of doves from the Art Garden of Eden, of which I am the cultivator, to the seven continents of the world, such that people from different nations and museums and temples of art on different soils may become messengers of my art. These temples of art include the British Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as the National Art Museum of China in Beijing.

Today, in a place with the name Leo Gallery and the ambition of building an art utopia, I am on my way again, bearing the cape of “25th Anniversary Show of Chinese Shan-shui Tattoo”. I will continue to travel among the four corners of the arena of international art. Behind me is a large group of sophisticated art practitioners of the “New Beijing School”. Together we stand at the summit, the Mount Everest of humanity, as new arts rise like the glorious sun radiating its first beams on all lands.

Huang Yan

10 June 2018, Beijing

About the artist

Huang Yan (b.1966, Jilin, China) is one of the most representative and pioneering artists in China today.

Since 1994, he has recorded his ideas and behavioral art through oil painting and photography. His forms of creation are diverse—often spreading traditional painting method and behavioral narrative into his photography, while also bringing new contemporary features into his paintings. Since 1997, he has had solo exhibitions in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, Berlin, New York, Paris, Amsterdam and Milan. Since 1998, he has participated in more than 30 international group exhibitions, including “Red China” in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (1998), “Past and Future — China’s New Photography and Video Art” in theInternational Center of Photography and the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Artin New York (2004) and so on.

His works are collected by many important art museums around the world.

About the exhibition

Opening Reception: 2018.09.20 (Thursday) 6 – 8 pm

Exhibition Duration: 2018.09.21 – 2018.11.15

Venue: Leo Gallery

Address: SOHO 189 Art Lane, 189 Queen’s Road West, Hong Kong

Courtesy of the artist and Leo Gallery, for further information please visit

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