H.N. Han (Hsiang-Ning Han or Xiang Ning Han) is an internationally renowned artist, documentarian, curator and art educator, known for his evolving artistic style and creating his own form of pointillism with a spray gun. By reviving and transferring 19th-century Post-Impressionism to 1970s New York, he influenced the New York art movement during the height of New Realism.
Born in Hunan, China in 1939, Han’s family followed the Nationalist party and resettled in Taiwan at the height of the Sino-Japanese war. Briefly after graduating from the National Taiwan Normal University in 1960, he was invited to become a member of the “Fifth Moon Group,” a revolutionary art collective at the forefront of the Chinese modern art scene. Shortly after in 1961, Han represented Taiwan for the exhibition at VI Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil, and exhibited at the 2nd Biennale de Paris, France. He increasingly gained international recognition for his abstract artwork by participating in numerous exhibits in Africa, Australia, the United States, and Europe. By 1965, at the age of 25, he held his first solo exhibition at the Taiwan Arts Center in Taipei.
In 1967, Han immigrated to New York City, settling in a Soho loft on Broome Street. Caught in the currents of minimal art in New York, Han’s shift in artistic technique was influenced by Jules Olitski, who pioneered the use of the spray gun technique in abstractionism. After experimenting and refining his own painting technique between 1968-1969, Han made his foray into the New York City art scene with his first solo exhibition in New York at French & Company in 1970. In the following year, Han joined O.K. Harris Gallery, owned by Ivan Karp where he regularly exhibited until 1984. Throughout the early 1970s, Han honed his spray painting techniques by modeling Seurat’s Post-Impressionist form to create a color separation method, which eventually became his signature “dot” style. In employing his original technique, he completed several photo-realist works with New York City scenes as his main subject, including “Subtle New York Cityscapes” ( 1971 ) and “Soho District” ( 1974 ), all of which his own photography and documentation served as main composition sources for larger paint renderings. In addition to building a photographic archive of Manhattan architectural fixtures and cityscapes, Han’s photo-documentation extends to include film recordings of exhibits in various galleries, as well as artist gatherings such as the Tuesday Lunch Club, which Han partook in with other New York City-based Asian American artists such as Ik-Joong Kang, Bing Lee, and Ken Chu. From 1985–1986, Han’s technique in New York cityscapes made a turn along with the subject of his works – moving from still landmarks to street crowds, bird eye’s views, and street intersections.
Beginning in the late 1980s, Han’s work reflected a return to his roots in China and Taiwan and for the first time, where his art was utilized to comment on Chinese and Taiwanese politics. From his travels to China and observing the Student Democratic Movement, Han created the “Tiananmen Square” series in 1989, which he completed in New York. One of his most politically vocal pieces debuted in 1991, the subject centered on “violence talks” within the Taipei legislative branch. Han’s usage of archival materials made a comeback when the “Mount Huang” series was produced between 1989–1991 from photos and videos he took to create a revival of the Chinese Song Dynasty nature-scape in his signature dot form. In 1998, Han began his rubbing prints series, capturing street textures of manholes and etched graffiti in New York City. The following year, Han continued his street prints project in Taiwan and then later other cities such as Paris and Portugal. In 2000, Han moved to Dali, China, after acquiring land to build a home and studio, which he later expanded to include a museum space which he called the EJ Art Contemporary Museum. In 2019, after vigorous negotiations with local tourism officials, Han had to forgo the building where the land would be used for a hotel and the museum was ultimately torn down.
In addition to making art, Han has been an art curator and educator. In 1976, he began teaching at the Graduate School of New York University. Han has also served as a Visiting Artist for the Art Institute in Chicago ( 1979 ) and taught at St. Thomas Aquinas as a visiting professor in 1988. He has also taught as a visiting professor in Hong Kong. His curated shows include “Neither East nor West: Seven Contemporary New York Artists” for Taipei Gallery in 1993.
Han’s art is driven by a self-developed “no categories”, ( Bu Shi Dong Xi ) philosophy and challenges the distinction of Eastern and Western art, as well as breaks traditional concepts of time and space. He currently lives in Taipei, Taiwan with his wife Yan Lu. He spends every day in his industrial studio which he calls the "Finish Factory". He often travels to his studio in SoHo, New York.