By Dirk Herrmann
He Hongpei's latest reflections on women's inner life and feelings in China
He Hongbei's most recent series of oil paintings are a seamless and consequential development of her work and consistent approach to art .Already when winning an important award at the First Guangzhou Biennale in 1992,the focus of her creation was two young girls playing a traditional Chinese musical instrument. Later,her"Painted Letters"described the inner life of Chinese women with respect to love,patience and waiting,unfulfilled wishes and desires,and the ever imminent tension between tradition and modernity,which is so characteristic for today's Chinese females.
The key to understand these paintings lies in the reflection of the inner life of the young women exhibited,articulated by a careful and sensitive coloring,coupled with high virtuosity of form and brushing,and a certain characteristic harmony and balance in the composition of the paintings.All of those are virtues that are equally attributable to He Hongbei's latest creations.
And yet there are some significant new aspects in He Hongbei's"Dumping Garbage-Relax"creations. The first thing that catches our eyes when looking at the women we are presented is their amazing beauty. The faces are model-style,a mix between masks (like a shield that protects from the outside world) and sensitive faces, somehow unreal in their perfection and yet very present in appearance. This is the style that our society wants women to be-"beauty"stands above all,and the pressure that females are exposed to in order to be up to this ideal is significant.
As we are constantly taught by advertisements, "be beautiful"can best be achieved by shopping,since consuming top brand gadgets can make us at least feel beautiful. However , we all know that the consequence of this approach might be a vicious cycle: "feel the pressure, consume, feel beautiful, get older, feel the pressure, consume, feel beautiful...",thus creating a certain emptiness at heat and mind. Taken to the extreme, life becomes a shallow bubble of illusions.
This is what He Hongbei outlines in her recent works,when portraying the women with paper heads (and brains). Those paper brains are full of "nothing", a scaring image of beauty combined with the emptiness which our modern society of consumers can entail. As in previous works, the strength of He Hongbei's art lies both in the concept of her paintings, the "message"that they convey, and the technical realization. "Dumping Garbage-Relax" is a fascinating visualization of innocence, reminding of European Renaissance portraits of medieval nuns, and yet the females that we are presented with are of a type which is very characteristic of modern China. Not often can we witness such a skilled and also non artificial union of styles and expressions.
So how can we escape emptiness in today's life? The concept sounds simple and at the same time radical-bend forward and let all the useless things that populate our mind fall out. "Relaxation" is the immediate consequence. But alas, emptying the mind and getting rid of things that promise but do not provide happiness is unfortunately not so easy to realize in practice. Garbage has the attitude to attract insects, and some of them are aggressive tiny little things, like filthy devils that populate our nightmares. It is amazing how He Hongbei realizes in the facial expression of the portrayed women both the relaxation, provided by dumping garbage, and the pain that is created by the insects that are emerging from the garbage like forebodes of fear (maybe envisaging to not be able to escape the mind trap after all).
Clearly "Dumping Garbage -Relax" is of high social relevance and leads to intense reflection of our life, behavior and attitudes in the eye of the beholder. The paintings are a high quality demonstration of the creativity of Chinese artists and of the relevance of visual art for our society.
Born in Sichuan, China
Graduated from the Middle School Attached to Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, Chongqing, China
B.F.A Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, Chongqing, China
Selected Solo Exhibitions
"Mirror Garden" - He Hongbei Solo Exhibition, New Millennium Gallery, Beijing, China
Dumped Garbage-Relax, Beijing, China
Painted Letters, Art Seasons, Beijing, China
Charlotte, Noel Gallery, North Carolina
Lawrence Wu Gallery, New York City, USA
Selected Group Exhibitions
Asia Contemporary Art Show Hong Kong 2015, Hong Kong
The 1st Contemporary Art Exhibition of China and Czech Republic, China & Czech Contemporary Art Museum, Beijing, China
Pink View· Chinese Contemporary Female Art Exhibition, Xinjiang Contemporary Art Museum, Urumqi, China
Art Without Border· Stars Shine For Future, Yue Art Museum, Beijing, China
Figurative Paintings of Younger Generations· New Outstanding Art Exhibition 2013, New Poly Plaza, Beijing, China
Inspiration From Nature·Female Artists Invitation Exhibition, Time Museum, Beijing, China
SH Contemporary Art Fair·Soemo Fine Arts, Shaihai, China
Her Vision, Soemo Fine Arts, Beijing, China
Chengdu Biennial Exhibition, Chengdu, Sichuan
Chinese Artists in Paris, Paris, France
Swiss Group Exhibition, Beijing Seasons Gallery, Swiss
Moving-Exhibition of 8 Contemporary Chinese Artists, Yi·Kaixuan Art Space, Beijing, China
Gathering and Self-control, Tawan
Critical Border Contemporary Art Show
59th Yearly Exhibition, Audubon Artists Inc, New York City Exhibition of Asian Art, New York City, USA
Exhibition of the Artists Society, Charlotte, North Carolina
104 Yearly Exhibition, Catherine Lorillard Art Club, New York City, USA
Yearly Exhibition, Pickens Gallery, South Carolina
Parimus Art Exhibition, New Jersey, USA
Greenville Art Exhibition, South Carolina
Rock Hill Art Exhibition, South Carolina
First Guangzhou Biennial, Zhuangzhou, China