Profile: Artist Zhuang Hong Yi
Our friends at Art Republik take a closer look at the beautifully chaotic works of Zhuang Hong Yi. The Chinese artist deserves a wider audience.
Chinese contemporary artist Zhuang Hong Yi has been based in the Netherlands for more than two decades but was originally born in 1962 in Sichuan, China. Living and working in two different environments, it is no surprise that his works take influence from both Chinese and European techniques. As an artist who embraces both the past and the present, his contemporary creations demonstrate the clear presence of his Chinese roots in the use of colors, themes, shapes and materials (specifically rice paper).
After graduating from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, he and his wife Lu Luo, also an artist, moved to Groningen in The Netherlands where they studied at the Minerva Academy. His shift from a country with well-established artistic traditions to a more liberal one saw him incorporating more daring colors and Western styles like impressionism into his practice. Even so, Zhuang still utilized the traditional Chinese material of rice paper. This gives his works a strong traditional Chinese aesthetic, becoming meditations on color, nature and form while emphasizing the uniformity and focus in handing material (all of which he acquired from his experience in China). Overall, his ‘messy’ and ‘chaotic’ mix of impasto strokes of bright acrylic and oil paints on top of rice paper characterises most of Zhuang’s work.
The flower motif dominates Zhuang’s work and he usually works patiently and religiously year after year on the subject alone. This is because the flower motif symbolizes many different meanings and emotions in both the Chinese and European culture that Zhuang seeks to explore through his art. Different flowers have various spiritual and social representations in Chinese culture. Flowers also hold strong significance in Western literature and customs. Furthermore, flowerbeds are exceptionally iconic features of The Netherlands.
Inspired by the flowerbed, Zhuang bends and folded hundreds of tiny buds from painted rice paper to form his flowerbed sculptures (pictured top). The three-dimensionality of the paper flowers invites the audience to appreciate the tactile nature of his vibrant tapestry of colors and form.
Transitioning from the uniformity and technique of his past training in Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, where he focused on traditional skills such as printing techniques like wood carvings, to the new found freedom of expression he achieved in Europe presented a challenge for the artist. Zhuang enacts this personal struggle visually, vacillating between phases of controlled planning and emotional gesture.
Zhuang’s more popular works include his ‘Head’ series of portraits that feature an abstracted shape of a head on a large canvas. He only began exploring the rice paper flower motif towards the end of the 90s, and became more recognized in the international art market for his ‘Flowerfield’ sculptures (below) from 2005.
“Zhuang is a renowned artist with a well-established collector following in the world’s major art markets of New York, Miami, London and Paris,” says Chris Churcher, MD & Founder of REDSEA Gallery. To date, Zhuang has exhibited his works in renowned exhibitions throughout Europe such as the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam in 1999, and a solo show in 2001 at the world famous Groninger Museum in The Netherlands. In 2007, the Groninger Museum honored him and his wife with a large duo exhibition called ‘Atelier Beijing’. His work is held in numerous renowned public and private collections worldwide.
*For more information, please visit www.redseagallery.com. If you are in Hong Kong in March, REDSEA Gallery has organized a showing of Zhuang Hong Yi’s work at Art Central Hong Kong. From March 23-26, visit the Central Harbourfront Event Space at 9 Lung Wo Road, Central, Hong Kong, for a direct experience.
By Tyen Fong