From September 13th to September 24th, 2011 – Shanghai Art Museum
An accomplished and versatile painter, Yu Hong (b.1966) is one of China’s most celebrated female artists. As one of the New-Generation artists beginning their artistic careers as a revolt against traditional socialist realism in 1980s, Yu Hong centers her practice on her experience as a woman, taking inspiration from both her own everday life and the lives of others around her. The world that she creates through her art encapsulates a sense of time and memory that is intermingled in the delicate scenes that she portrays. Working on canvas, silk or resin, with oil, pastel or fabric paint, her recent series often result in large-scale works that are personal and emotionally reflective.
Following two the two acclaimed solo exhibitions “In and Out of Time (2009, Guangdong Museum of Fine Art) and “Golden Sky” (Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, 2010), Yu Hong’s “Golden Horizon” will take over Shanghai Art Museum’s main exhibition hall, showcasing a brand new body of new paintings along with a selection her most celebrated works over the past four years. Curated by Zhang Qing, “Golden Horizon” is composed of twenty-nine paintings divided into three sections. The paintings range from intimate scales to a major composition of multiple canvases and draw on a wealth of research and scholarship related to classic antiquity of Chinese and “Western” art, reflecting Yu Hong’s interest in the idea of spirituality and how it is presented aesthetically and formally in history through architecture and artworks. Yu Hong’s new body of work elevates the banal into the realm of sublimity by preserving those fleeting moments of affection in her day-to-day life on her gold-foiled canvases.
The first section of the exhibition includes two key works, Ladder to the Sky (2008) and Romance of Spring (2008). The six meter high painting Ladder to the Sky is related in subject and composition to The Ladder of Divine Ascent from Saint Catherine’s Monastry on Mount Sinai. In Romance of Spring, a work spanning twelve meters in length, Yu Hong takes the classical Chinese Tang Dynasty painting The Court Ladies Preparing Newly-Woven Silk as direct influence. For Yu Hong, the search for ideas of beauty, the divine and the sacred is a relished daily task found in her immediate social community, her figures, carefully rendered in colorful detail, depict each individual’s strength and spirit.
The second section consists of four major frescoes paintings, Atrium (2010), Questions for Heaven (2010), Natural Selection (2010), Sky Curtain (2010). This body of paintings cites its influence from an Italian ceiling fresco depicting the triumph of Hercules, a Buddhist cave painting in Dunhuang’s Mogao Grottoes, a small etching by Francisco Goya, to a cave painting that once adorned the grottoes of Kizil, in Xinjiang Province. Displaying these paintings on the ceiling in the manner of classical frescoes changes not only the perspective of viewing and the interaction between viewer and subject, but also the perception of art and life.
The third section is composed of brand new paintings made in the past year that will debut in “Golden Horizon”. The central piece is Yu Hong’s most ambitious work to date. It takes the form and composition of classical Catholic altar painting, filling the canvases with ordinary lives in the heightened social, cultural and political situation of China now. The exhibition also includes three new series, Spontaneous Motion, Wrestling and a body of paintings of various snapshots of contemporary lives, such as Silence and Balance among others. Altogether they portray a realistic representation of the everyday experiences, exploring especially how the younger generation maintains the delicate relationship between tradition, career, family life and social expectations.
Yu Hong appropriates iconic western and eastern classical antiquity in the attempt to create works of art that transcend cultural barriers and communicate a language that is universal. Her autobiographical approach to art world friends, family and personal experience against the upheavals of recent Chinese history, give world-changing events a more human significance and put private milestones into a broader context.
Yu Hong was born in Beijing in 1966. She graduated with Master of Fine Arts in 1996 from the Central Academy of Fine Art where she also teaches. She currently lives and works in Beijing.
“Golden Horizon” is organized by Shanghai Art Museum and supported by Long March Space.