Ai Huang: Phantasist

When Ai Huang first moved to Japan, she started experimenting with gelatin silver processing. This process was introduced in 1839 by William Henry Fox Talbot. By the 1910s, it had become the most common method of printing black and white photographs. Ai uses this classic developing method in a new way in order to expand her own world. 

Ai paints prints

The process in the dark room, playing with light and liquid, is like casting magic. Ai paints with her hands, fingers, nails, and sometimes her hair. Her prints become entwined with her body, evolving in tandem with her physical form and mood, mirroring the ebb and flow of her creative spirit. The prints don’t take long to produce because they are liquid. It’s constantly changing. She has just captured it. Then, everything’s in her control. 

“It’s existing with me, so it’s part of my life. It’s really part of my living, like, my heart is beating, my Blood is moving all over me, and it’s like part of me growing.”

We often experience interesting coincidences in our lives. For Ai, this coincidence refers to encounter with a photographer Masato Seto. He was an important person in the beginning of her career and proposed her first solo exhibition. He even influenced the technical part of Ai’s artwork. In the short piece he wrote about Ai, we can feel a robust exchange that transcends the boundaries of their languages.

“I’m a  Phantasist.” 

This is what she told me when we first met. 
She said it in a low, thick voice, in Japanese that was a little hard to understand. 
At that moment, the enigmatic statement of this young artist, Huang Ai, seemed to slink along the ground as it radiated outwards for a thousand miles.

With strokes of her slender fingertip, Huang Ai pulls the viewer into a blurred otherworld. 
With just the slightest force of her fingers and a burst of hidden passion, the women which she conjures, with gleaming white teeth, are no longer of this world, but that of another.
With each spark of her magic, Huang Ai, a “Phantasist”, crosses boundaries into the unknown.

excerpt from text by Masato Seto
Translation by John Sypal
Extracted from

images by PILOTENKUECHE or supplied by the artist

Masato’s photographs present us with glimpses of reality, depicted through these materials, while Huang Ai envisions her own nonverbal inner realm, a heterotopia in its own right. This symbiotic relationship with her artworks defines her existence.

“I think in my entire life, I feel like I’m not here. I’m not in this reality. I just want to exist like a dream. And that’s what I’m doing. Because when I was little, I had a brain disease and a lot of seizures. My biggest fear is the reality.

Fantasies from nothing 

Throughout her journey, Ai has been a consistent creator, effortlessly communicating through her artistry. Her work radiates playfulness, intuition, and instinct, reflecting her playful approach to life. Moving from China to the United States, and then to Japan, she has embraced each transition as an opportunity for growth. Ai sees play as assigning value and defining essence in the very act itself, disrupting determinism and fostering understanding. Above all, every play is an act that departs from the ‘ordinary’ or ‘real’ life, bringing satisfaction and responsibility. She nurtures this instinct of play, calling her work “Fantasy from nothing.”

I work everywhere I’ve been to. Nothingness. It’s nothingness from this reality, but I think we each of us have a reality. Like, each of us, as a living, a life has this thing in us. That’s really powerful and strong. So with that, we can really just do anything in there. Maybe not in this reality, but in there we can. So I guess it’s just what I do in there. It’s really hard for me to use this language.” 

Written by Boram Choi

Keep up with Ai Huang on her site and see her work at the following upcoming shows.

Order Connection Order 

Vernissage: Sat 17 Feb 7-10 PM
Open: Sun 18, Fri 23 – Sun 25 4-8PM

Alte Handelsschule
Giesserstr 75
04229 Leipzig


Ai Huang
solo show
vernissage: 22 Feb 7PM
Besser Leben
Holbeinstr 2

Ai Huang

vernissage: 9 March
Das Japanische Haus e.V
Eisenbahnstr 150
04315 Leipzig

Barbed-wire Ghost

Vernissage: 16 March 7-10 PM
Open: Sun 17 – Wed 20 March 4-8 PM

Franz-Flemming-Str 9
04179 Leipzig