Thaddaeus Ropac Paris Marais opens exhibition by artist Han Bing
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Thaddaeus Ropac Paris Marais opens exhibition by artist Han Bing
Han Bing. Photo Courtesy of Thaddaeus Ropac.

PARIS.- In her first solo exhibition at Thaddaeus Ropac, the Chinese-born, Paris-based artist Han Bing is presenting a group of new, large-scale paintings alongside more intimate and instinctive works on paper. A Very Lucky Man’s Melancholy, Between her and her god, Paul’s dream, the intriguing titles Han gives her paintings echo their layered imagery – an aggregate of experiences and encounters that the painter channels onto her canvas. Her fragmented compositions reminiscent of torn posters are contrasted with bold swathes of electric colours, opening up new pictorial dimensions somewhere between the familiar urban reality and poetic, imaginary worlds.

Like her paintings, the title of the exhibition bears witness to the multitude of influences Han has absorbed while living and moving back between several cultures in Shanghai, New York, L.A. and now Paris. An American vernacular expression meaning ‘to have courage’, got heart speaks to the artist’s process in which she allows herself to be guided by instinct, embracing accident and chance, rather than following a system or pre-conceived method.

Han describes walking around the city and experiencing visual ‘clashes’, where a serendipitous combination of colours and textures solidify into a painting in her mind’s eye. She is particularly drawn to the torn posters she sees in the Paris metro. Halfway to being taken down or simply abandoned, the accidental compositions resonate with the artist, who explains: ‘It’s like running into a poem someone wrote on the corner of a wall. The person who wrote it might not have intended to pass on the information the way I perceived it, but somehow I saw it and it made an impact on me.’

Back in her studio, she begins with an acrylic base that gives the tone of the painting. This is often influenced by the city she is living in: ‘I think it might have something to do with the climate and the moisture of the air,’ she reflects. ‘In Paris, I feel like the colours have this subtle grey undertone, compared to the palette I used in New York.’ Over the ground, Han then sketches out the outlines of the composition, or what she terms ‘the skeleton’, before adding colour – ‘the tissue’. As she works, the paintings take on a shape and mind of their own: she thinks of them as ‘creatures’, allowing herself to be guided by them to their final form.

The immediacy of Han’s approach is perhaps most evident in the small works on paper on view in the exhibition. They are spontaneous creations in which she allows paint to coagulate into abstract patterns over pages cut out of newspapers. Whether compelled by a title, a text or an image, Han fixes the fleeting ephemera of current events by creating pools of colour that partially conceal the photographs below them. ‘It’s a very delicate thing,’ she describes, ‘because it’s like making a monoprint where you lay the paint down and you never know what’s going to come out until you peel the paper off and it reveals itself to you.’

Han prefers the term ‘organic’ to the traditional dialectic of abstraction and figuration. Paintings such as 3:33 (2023) in particular, elude such binary categorisations. The tile-like patterns in the composition have a familiar urban quality and yet might also function as colour fields or grids along Modernist tropes. Others, such as A Very Lucky Man’s Melancholy (2023), include more overtly representational elements. Bordered by a broad orange stripe, the image of a theatre appears to be peeling off from a neutral, cardboard-coloured ground, leaving viewers to wander visually in and out of representation. It is in the interstices – the liminal spaces between each element of the composition, or what the artist describes as ‘slits’ – that Han finds an element of abstraction. ‘That’s where the light is allowed to be introduced’, she explains, ‘and to me, that’s where the abstraction happens.’

Thaddaeus Ropac
Han Bing: got heart
September 2nd, 2023 - October 7th, 2023

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