| Huang Yong Ping, Four Paintings Created According to Random Instructions and Wheel |
| Image Source
Huang Yong Ping was one of the founding members of the Chinese Xiamen Dada group, inaugurated in 1986 with a series of provocative group exhibitions. Members of the group had accumulated bits of knowledge about the original Dada movement from miscellaneous books and magazines that could be found in the island city of Xiamen. Huang Yong Ping and his friends felt an immediate kinship with the past movement and decided to integrate a number of Dadaist principles, in addition to its name, into their practice. The cultural reforms that began in China during the 1980s asserted a sort of prescribed teleology onto the Chinese populace – the divide between the dreadful past and the glorious future allowed no room for the present, which was left to tangle with the vicissitudes of its situation unassisted. This backdrop naturally found itself reflected by progressive artists in binary themes that contrasted substance / / nothingness and fate / / chance. As Hou Hanru writes in “Change is the Rule” (2005), implementing these themes permitted the Xiamen Dadaists to “transgress the linear order of things, which is the very core of established modernist culture and is also central to the capitalist and socialist reforms that helped reshape the political, social, economic, and cultural landscape in China in the 1980s.” (1)
Huang Yong Ping’s paintings centered on chance, including “Four Paintings Created According to Random Instructions” (1985), epitomize the Xiamen Dadaists’ relinquishment of the notions of artistic substance in their demand for diversity. Though these paintings are in no way meaningless, the fact that they accrue significance through chance rather than through a series of fateful artistic decisions subverts their true implications. As Huang Yong Ping himself writes in “Xiamen Dada and Chan Buddhism” from 1986-1988, “this means that the artist abandons his false noble image, competition and innovation, and the standard of value.” (2) The application of chance in art, as Duchamp and the other original Dadaists well knew, allows both everything and nothing to be a work of art. Ping, who integrates traditional Chinese texts and concepts such as the I Ching and Chan (Zen) Buddhism into his works, illustrates this truth by stating that “Chan Buddhism sees a wooden statue of Sakyamuni both as Buddha and as a piece of firewood. As 'Buddha,' so as to connect with the living world; as 'wood,' so as to go beyond it. At this point, 'Buddha' and 'art' exist only as an unchangeable meaning in the living world.” (3)
Please consider this while looking at the Huang Yong Ping’s Four Paintings Created According to Random Instructions, which were executed according to instructions printed on the roulette wheel (Wheel) that you can see in the foreground.