Steph Huang: Everything and Nothing | mother’s tankstation limited

Steph Huang, who was born in Taiwan but now lives and works in London, makes sardonic, surprising, and sometimes funny use of everyday objects. A collection of works are on show at mother’s tankstation: several quite modest individual pieces pack a bigger collective punch when imaginatively displayed, together.

The artist clearly misses home, but finds quirky pleasures in her new surroundings. The ironically named Forest features bamboo leaves, neatly trapped in a gridded metal mesh. She took the leaves from her grandparents’ vineyard, back home; the rusty metal could hardly be more evocative of London, at least to me.

steph huang - installation view

Enjoy Your Meal dates from Huang’s experiences while living in Paris, during the COVID lockdown. France’s especially tight rules meant that you could only leave home for the bare essentials. For the city’s residents, that of course included a daily baguette. Huang’s response is to drive a steel spear through a slightly bent breadstick - which needs to be replaced roughly once a week by the gallery - and dangle a hand-blown, sausage-shaped glass object from one end.

Like everything else in the show, it’s motionless. You worry about brushing past it and tipping it all over. How is it maintaining its balance?

Out of Tune is one of a few works in the show where sweet little plywood boxes contain everyday objects, Joseph Cornell-style. This one has a metronome that’s absolutely still, the needle suspended just to one side. Stay in the gallery long enough, and you’ll hear two minutes of metronome noises… projected from… somewhere. Later when I read the show notes properly I found out that the noise was coming from a speaker dangling out of the other end of the baguette, which I guess I didn’t notice at the time. Maybe I was distracted by that cute sausage - Huang’s hand-blown glass objects are particularly charming.

While the artist might resist the idea that the works make a particular point - “I mainly think through making,” she has said - the prevailing mood here is one of stillness and suspension.

I’m arguing here that this sense of suspension echoes the long lockdowns we’ve had recently, and that this show is another expression of that mood. I’ve featured lockdown art from Thomas Demand and Gillian Wearing here previously. Surely there will be more to come!

Steph Huang: Everything and Nothing is at mother’s tankstation limited (London). 03 February - 09 April 2022