A massive snake in real life? Absolutely frightening. A massive snake skeleton, aluminum and stainless steel structure on the other hand? Absolutely exciting and awe-inspiring. Such is the Chinese-French artist Huang Yong Ping’s amazing aluminum snake sculpture, an installation he dubbed, Ressort. Designed and installed in 2012 for the Queensland Art Gallery in Australia, this magnificent structure features a snake skeleton made of silver vertebrae, undulating in a sinuous manner from the ceiling to the floor. The beautifully extending sculpture spans 53 meters across the Watermall and was a great centerpiece for the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art #7.
About Huang Yong Ping
Huang Yong Ping was born in 1954 in Xiamen, China and is a contemporary artist who was part of the first students to be admitted to art academies after the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution1. Here, the artist developed a penchant for French postmodern theory, and along with the influence of Taoist and Zen Buddhist, he cofounded Xiamen Dada2, a well-known avant-garde group that mainly deals with construction materials in galleries as opposed to artworks. He lived in France where he shone the limelight on his art and as a result, while his artwork features Chinese mythological symbols such as the snake, it also sprinkles symbols and mythologies from the West; an approach that is evident in Ressort.
The meaning of ‘Ressort’
‘Ressort’, which is French for ‘spring’ is an apt name for this art piece as it also means energy. Huang’s use of the snake is evident in most of his work as the snake represents a central symbol of Chinese mythology3, and this specific pose that the skeleton took on as if uncoiling from the ceiling to the ground represents controlled energy and resilience. The snake in ancient Chinese myths is also a representation of knowledge and wisdom. In other Western cultures, it may be taken to represent fear, deception, desire and creation, even as evidenced in the Bible story of the Garden of Eden.
While the skeleton seems stationary, especially given the use of aluminum and stainless steel, much like other skeletons or models of skeletons, the real artistic value, however, is in its suggested movement. Looking at the undulating coiling poise of the structure, one cannot help but imagine it making its way powerfully and fluidly with absent muscles working to coordinate the vertebrae. Such is the talent that Huang possesses; the ability to make his audience see the gigantic snake skeleton structure and visualize its real-life features and even see the hint of movement in the clever way it is positioned and installed. Ressort is a true masterpiece hinged on elements of change and cultural interdependence.
The snake at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, 2012
The snake at the shore of the Loire River, France, 2012
A different version of the snake was installed in 2012 along the shore of the Loire River nearby the Saint Nazaire bridge in Nantes, France.
The snake at Grand Palais, Paris, 2016
In 2016, Huang Yong Ping installed yet another version of the snake in Paris. Empires is a 250m sculpture which occupied the 13,500 sqm and 35 m ceilings of the Grand Palais for the 7th edition of Monumenta.
All images by Huang Yong Ping/gladstonegallery.com unless otherwise noted.
Location of ‘Serpent d’Océan’
Plage de Mindin, 44250 Saint-Brevin-les-Pins
Nantes Tourism: +33 240 757 507
Installation of ‘Ressort’
Huang Yong Ping discusses his art practice and ‘Ressort’
Drone video of ‘Serpent d’océan’
Production of ‘Empires’