PEOPLEText: Emma Chi

This is an exhibition that is the birth of a collaborative effort by Ren Hong, Zhang Da Li and other artists to investigate a unique part of China’s history.


Since the People’s Republic of China was established, the nation has undergone ceaseless facelifts and transformations. The artists featured here are personally part of this era of change. Most of them have also had the opportunity to remotely observe changes in China from a distance. Beijing-based artist Ren Hong utilises her exceptional artistic vision with patterns in history to carefully detail her crimson-tinged memories of living under Communist rule.


In this exhibition, every artist has used their own artwork to reveal their feelings and thoughts towards the Cultural Revolution. What does yours reveal?

The Cultural Revolution was something that affected a whole generation, so everyone’s opinion on it differs. As for me, the nature of memory itself isn’t painful or tragic, but is something that brings comfort. Hence, I generally use a contemplative, reflective attitude in treating the past. I was born when the Cultural Revolution ended and was brought up by an artistic family, so I felt that whatever I encountered was generally beautiful. It was truly a blessing that what I got to experience was the start of change, and of things becoming much better. This time, I will be exhibiting 5 works, one of which is titled ‘Wan Hua Tong’ (Kaleidoscope). Mostly, I use commonly recognised, typical symbols in this work. Through the use of these symbols, I construct memories of my childhood and the world I experienced. These symbols include the national flag, the national emblem, the hatchet, the sickle, the rising sun, birds and other icons. Through techniques of realism, I intend to objectively portray a clear, accurate depiction of my past, and my memories.

What was the inspiration behind your work?

Nostalgia. I’m very happy with the wonderful life I’m currently leading, and for everything to have led up to this point – that, to me, is a comfort, and I feel extremely blessed, like the sun is always choosing to shine on me. A lot of my works are closely related to the happenings of daily life. We can’t distance ourselves from them, because what we have today is born from the past.
As a result, I depict those things with all the passion I have.


Which artists do you admire?

There are many of them. Within this group exhibition itself, it would be Zhang Da Li. I think he’s extremely noble in the way he still continues to doggedly pursue the route of the artist after so many years, and I really admire his perseverance. Of course, it goes without saying that his works aren’t bad either, and leave a deep impression on the viewer!

Aside from creating art, what else do you do in your daily life?

I’m a fan of modern comforts, and enjoy appreciating tea, ballet and literature. Heh heh, but when it comes to my artwork, I take a totally different approach and try to view things from a more macro perspective. I normally try to depict social concerns in my work. Aside from focusing on themes that deal with red memories (life under the Communist party) and heroism, I am also interested in contemporary issues, daily life, major political incidents, youth-related problems, as well as problems concerning the Internet age and excessive consumption and materialism.

What’s your impression of Shanghai?

I’ve been to Shanghai a lot of times, and I really like it here. It’s very trendy, and attractive in all aspects. It’s also close to the sea, and I’ve always felt that any place located close to the water tends to embody vibrancy and inspiration.

Wen Gu Er Zhi Xin (Understanding the Present through the Past)
Date: 22nd May – 17th July 2010
Place: OV Gallery
Address: 19C Shao Xing Road (close to South Shanxi Road), Shanghai
Tel: +86 21 5465 7768

Text: Emma Chi
Translation: Bonnie Oeni

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