The MB&F M.A.D. Gallery is delighted to host an exhibition by Chinese artist Xia Hang. His kinetic sculptures are stainless steel alien-like creatures and tubular, otherworldly ‘vehicles’ but most importantly playful. The recurring theme of ‘play’ is infused in Hang’s sculptures, with the talented artist encouraging a palpable interaction between audience and artwork. Growing up in a world that was constantly changing, he didn’t just want us to stand and admire his sculptures as purely static pieces of art. Therefore, he managed to make us to touch them, interact with them or even transform them to eventually bring a smile on our face.
Xia Hang was born in 1978 in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, China. He started painting when he was just 10 years old and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts before going on to do a Master of Fine Arts within the sculpture department of China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts.
It was during his studies that Hang created a cluster of comma-shaped men in mirror-polished stainless steel and these laid down the blueprint for what would become his signature, alien-like sculptures. “Commas do exist in Chinese writing,” he says. “For me, my ‘comma man’ represents a chubby little boy.”
Hang’s comma men are pretty modest in size compared to some of his other sculptures. The imposing Coming Soon, for example, is certainly not for the faint-hearted. This piece measures an impressive 180cm (6ft) x 80cm (2.5ft) x 170cm (5.5ft) and might be described as a tubular stainless steel, inverse tricycle. Coming Soon increases Geneva’s pedal-powered population by two, thanks to the beautifully crafted pair of comma men on board who are evidently enjoying the ride. Depending on what mood you’re in, Coming Soon can be presented in at least two configurations. This is emblematic of Hang’s efforts to subvert the established definition of ‘sculpture’ – a term usually connoting a static quality – by offering multiple possibilities for the extension of the creation’s form. Indeed, Hang believes his sculptures should be considered like toys. He wants people to touch his art, to play with it.
Highlighting this philosophy, Hang’s 2008 Beijing exhibition was called “Please don’t touch”, with the “don’t” crossed out. It was an expression of his frustration with the golden rule of most museums and galleries around the globe. He says: “When I see an exhibition of artworks, there is always a little sign in the corner saying: ‘Please don’t touch’. I feel this sign generates a distance between the artwork and the audience. My purpose is to bring art closer to us, to create toys as sculptures, and sculptures as toys. I love various types of games and toys, and these are the source of my inspiration for my sculptures.”
Since he began sculpting, Hang has had an affinity for steel, attracted to it by its strength and high polish. He explains: “Perhaps I am drawn to the shine of metal and its durability. Metal is much stronger than stone or wood, yet it is still very malleable. I think that the changeable dynamics of metal are similar to the characteristics of humans.”
Hang’s scintillating sculptures aren’t only gracing the M.A.D. Gallery: Hang also designed the unique power reserve indicator in MB&F’s new Legacy Machine No.1 Xia Hang in the miniaturised form of one of his iconic ‘comma men’ creations.