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Sculpture (MA)

Steph Huang

Steph Huang (b.1990, Taiwan) lives and works in London. Her artistic practices incorporate a wide range of mediums from sculpture, installation, analogue photography, soundscape to publication.

Select solo and exhibitions include: Cromwell Place, London (2021); Southwark Park Galleries, London (2020); Discerning Eye, London (2020); Galleri Heike Arndt DK, Berlin and Denmark (2020); Filet, London (2020); Artworks Project Space, London (2020); Nida Art Colony of Vilnius Academy, Lithuania (2020); Peak Gallery, London (2020); the Koppel Project, London (2019); Belmacz, London (2019); Bolton museum, Bolton (2019); RawLabs, London (2019); Podium, Luxembourg (2019); South London Gallery, London (2019); Alte Handelsschule, Leipzig (2018); Krudebude, Leipzig (2018); Incheon Art Platform, Seoul (2018); 4Cose, London (2017); A.P.T Gallery, London (2017).

Upcoming exhibitions include South London Gallery, London (2021); Arts Catalyst Residency, Sheffield (2021); Salón ACME No. 9, Mexico (2021); Belmacz, London (2021).


The eccentric moments in everyday life, often captured through my Canon F1 camera act as trigger-points for new ideas and an attempt to examine something of the lives of modern human beings through mass produced objects. Found objects retrieved from random encounters are incorporated into my sculpture making; I am intrigued to know where these objects come from, how they are made and their shifting social status after being discarded. My work uses autobiographical narratives expressed in layers of storytelling. Coupled with a sense of humour these personal narratives come from a physical and psychological state of mind and are often retrieved from memory. Poetically charged, the works are rooted in my observations of incidental details and the relationships of objects to each other.

My recent works explore a surreal absurdity of life through collective behaviours, looking at how leisure might develop into a new concept of bodily labour, culture and political economy. 

Installation view
Lockdown Landscape
Sundance, 2021, Glass, leaf, plaster, plastic, powder coated stainless steel
[Detail] Paint, plaster, plastic, powder coated stainless steel
[Detail] Glass, powder coated stainless steel
[Detail] Glass, powder coated stainless steel
[Detail] Powder coated stainless steel, wax
[Detail] Flour, mild steel
[Detail] Glass, paint, perspex, pigment, plaster, plywood, powder coated mild steel
[Detail] Aluminium, chemiwood, hinge, Japanese paper, paint, plywood, mild steel

The installation Escape from Where We Are is my response to the experiences of staying at home and traveling during the pandemic restrictions between London, Paris and Taiwan, reusing, refiguring and dismantling found materials and objects. I collected most of the materials from streets in Paris and the abandoned childhood home I lived in again briefly during my quarantine in Taiwan. In my old house in Taiwan my parents have kept many unused obsessively saved items such as a broken fan without a head, a metal stick from a clothes hanger and a dead plant. I think this compulsive hoarding is partly explained by their cultural memory and experience of Japanese and Chinese colonisation and post-war history. The way in which the objects were carefully dismantled, reassembled, precariously placed and saved over time in this house has taken on new meaning for me during the pandemic.

During my quarantine in the house, I carefully chose a group of objects to use in my installation and re-painted the objects in the faded strange old colours I found there. For me the shifting status of these things echoes the present unpredictable situation and some kind of new alienation I now feel between me and the nature of materiality.

On the wall in the installation is a ‘future message’ on hinged panels in the shape of a French First Aid sign examining our need for superstitious beliefs and certain collective behaviours in times of stress. In Taiwan people often visit the temple to get a ‘future message’. By putting a coin in a slot you receive a number referring to your message like an automated fortune teller, easing the believers’ anxiety and stress. 

Reflecting my belief in the potential of objects to heal, the glass snake in the central sculpture entwined around a palm tree made from objects collected from my home, refers to the ancient Greek symbol for health and medicine. A plant pot filled with recycled glass sand stands on a column made of green plaster Canelés (French pastries). I collected the glass sand from the glass manufacturing factory in Taiwan where I oversaw the making of the hand blown glass sausages and snake. I also included other found objects and leaves from tropical plants that for me represent the exotic and the history of colonialism. There is also a baguette and a glass sausage; objects I made from the nostalgic memory of a normal day spent at a cafe and walking on the streets in France. Underneath the baguette, I engraved a Hungarian text on a block of butter made of wax saying: Enjoy your meal! The entire stand is unevenly spread with a layer of this wax ‘butter’ as is the surrounding structure.

Three red ‘Pig Coins’ made in Perspex are wedged between wire shelves from a fridge I found in Paris. These “Pig Coins” are similar to tokens used in casinos and might be connected to buying some kind of future message or even crypto-currency.

1. Escape from Where We Are, 2021, Dimensions variable, Flour, glass, paint, perspex, plywood, powder coated mild steel, string, wax

2. Sundance, 2021, 40 x 40 x 160 cm, Chrome plated steel, found object, glass, leaf, paint, plaster, powder coated stainless steel

2. Future Message, 2021, 73 x 50 x 22 cm, Aluminium, Japanese paper, mild steel, paint, plywood

Moon Stone, 2020, Chain, chicken wire, hook, paint, plaster, plywood
Maneki-neko, 2020, Hinge, paint, plaster, plywood
Han-Kengai, 2020, Clay, hinge, paint, plaster, plywood
Check-in & Checkout, 2020, Clay, carpet, flight tag, fortune cookies MDF, metal ball, powder coated mild steel, wheel
Angelo Parodi, 2020, Paint, pinewood, printed paper

Setting aside religion, there are numerous ordinary objects designated to offer us false hopes and reassurances. The inexplicable belief we hold in the power of objects such as bonsais, mineral stones, horseshoes, four-leaf clovers, or rabbit feet have created optimism in our subconscious minds and might even keep us protected through the unknown future. Worshipping such deified objects evokes profound emotional responses and further changes our neural functioning. I chose certain symbols that represent just such responses and painted them onto small wooden 'altars'. 

At the centre of the installation I Never Promised You a Wonderland is a moving model train with a cargo of pine needles, travelling through a miniature wonderland of 'stone mountains' made of chicken wire, plaster and paint. The constant motion of the train on the oval rail goes along like the flow of life. Alongside, there is a brass effect scaled down hotel luggage trolley, standing in for fast tracked lifestyles and a reminder of how people constantly check in and out of their lives. Silkscreen printed aluminium sheets and lottery balls sit against the walls, flashbacks of old memories that I photographed over several years.

Humorist R. E. Shay is credited with the witticism, “Depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will, but remember it didn’t work for the rabbit.”

Installation view at Peak Gallery

When the economy of Taiwan fully opened in the 80s, the Taiwanese people became rich very quickly. They pursued their consumer satisfaction with an admiration for Western culture. In 1989, a Dutch investor founded Makro, one of the first massive shopping centres located in the interchange of the highway. Membership only.

Starting then, it became a popular activity for middle class families to spend time shopping, browsing, and buying during the weekend. My family was no exception. I remember driving to Makro when I was five - my only view was through a small window at the back of our car. Most of the time on the road, my brother and I played silly games like calling out the colour of the cars passing by. If we were lucky, we would witness the pig trucks. Although we could never see a whole pig, we saw its parts: ears, noses, tails and feet. 

When I grew up, I realised all the pigs live in the South. Their last journey is moving North to the city. 

1. Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad, 2020, 130 x 28 x 50 cm, Bronze, foam, mesh metal, mild steel, perspex, pigment, plaster

2. Pigpigpig, 2020, 5 x 5 x 8 cm, Clay, sound (00:01:02)

3. Prawns & Pigs, 2020, 14.8 x 21 x 0.5 cm, Digital print on paper, hand binding, letterpress on cover

[Detail] Gelatin silver print

The installation Everything about Prawns consists of several sculptures, two photographs, one video and a sound work, reproducing a leisure activity popular in Taiwan - indoor prawn fishing. This absurd, somehow cruel activity usually takes place in suburban industrial sites such as a hub and community centre for working class people in Taipei. 

There is a hand built indoor octagonal shaped pond (a symbol of good fortune) in the centre of which I have placed a group of unfired clay prawns which dissolve over time. There are piles of crates stacked up with hundreds of clay prawns inside waiting to be dropped into the pond for the next round of momentary pleasure. In the video presented on an old monitor on the ground, elderly women competitively peel prawns in a small fishing village in The Netherlands, this is montaged with film footage of myself making my clay prawns. The film ends with contemporary news and documentary clips of immigrant prawn farmers in South East Asia. 

1. Pay for Your Pleasure, 2019, 53 x 35 x 50 cm, Bait, foam, found object, key, locker, mild steel, plaster, print, plywood, vinyl

2. Superorganism, 2019, 25 x 25 x 9 cm, Bait, clay, foam, plexiglas, plywood, vinyl

3. Everything about Prawns, 2019, 200 x 200 x 180 cm, Bait, clay, paint, plywood, mild steel, gelatin silver paint, video (00:06:39)

Taipei Artist Village x Arts Catalyst x Platform Asia

Gilbert Bayes Award