Hang Gao on colour field painting, the meme and why airbrush is the “perfect medium” for him

He describes the experience akin to “a baby turtle going into the sea for the first time.” There was so much to explore both technically and conceptually, and in turn, he immersed himself in the contemporary art scene surrounding him. Encountering new artists, Hang pooled together his diverse experiences to develop a new artistic expression that remains unique to him. Conceptually, he explores the societal dynamics of his generation, more namely, the domination of social media and the online behaviours that have come with it. He refers to “the DNA/virus of this generation’s culture”: the meme. Interestingly, investigating these notions through colour field painting; an art movement otherwise known as Neo-geo which utilises geometric abstractions while criticising the consumerism of the modern day.
We’ve seen quite a lot of airbrush pepper our feeds recently, as it fast becomes a popular medium for contemporary illustrators and artists alike. It’s also the technique of choice for Hang Gao, the Houston-based artist we’re meeting today. Having grown up in China, he spent eight years studying traditional oil painting in Beijing before moving to the USA in 2015. During his studies, he experimented with a variety of techniques which provided a great understanding of the “objecthood of the painting process.” Armed with these fundamental principles, upon moving to America, Hang then discovered a whole new way of using the medium.
In order to find an apt way to bring these ideas together, Hang tells us, “the surface of the airbrush painting seems to be the closest one I could find.” In his words, “it is smooth, the smoothest, blurry, the blurriest, yet has the highest definition on its surface all at the same time.” By opting to use a neon colour palette, airbrush became the “perfect medium” for the artist. By studying the current oeuvre of the creative landscape, Hang noticed the search for higher and higher definition. It’s a technical achievement evident in many digital art forms (games, renders and so on) but in Hang’s case, he is seeking this through physical painting.
“Airbrush painting can give the sharpest/clearest images of blurry objects,” he adds on the matter. Making use of the entire spectrum that the medium offers, in Hang’s artwork, he achieves a mesmerising aesthetic which is both of these assets at the same time. Colour field painting remains at the core of his work, however, and the artist creates unique expressions through abstracting or enhancing certain features of a person. A direct feeling of the present is also elemental to his practice, something Hang communicates through a sense of movement achieved by the mixture of blurred and block colour.