Yu Hong: The Laughing Heart

One of China’s Foremost Artists Urges Calm in a Hyper-Accelerated Society

Yu Hong drifts through the post-industrial landscape of 751 D-Park in Beijing’s 798 art district in this intimate film by director Thomas Rhazi. Here reflecting on the frenetic rush of her country, Yu inhabits a quiet, thoughtful corner of the Chinese art world. Like her husband, artist Liu Xiaodong, she is influenced by social realism, creating a theatre of human form and experience that is often rendered in mixed materials including gold leaf and oil paint. Ever curious about how social shifts and the abandonment of tradition alter female experience—Yu’s own grandmother had her feet bound—she often uses herself as muse. “Female artists have less opportunities to exhibit and sell their work then men,” she says of the difficulty of being a creative woman in China. “This constricts their growth and their ability to break free of the traditional role with the family.” Yu’s work has been exhibited in galleries as diverse as the SFMOMA in California and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens. She remembers her city’s transformation from a one-gallery town in the 1980s, when she defied social pressure to quit and procreate to study at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. China has come a long way since then, but Yu is keen to focus on the human stress that such progress brings. “My work expresses the various problems a country faces when undergoing such rapid development,” she says. “It creates lots of pressure for individuals.”

Special thanks to 751 D-Park. 

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Conversations (4)

  • eqobKING
    had to watxh again.
  • eqobKING
    she iz amazing.
  • Antoine Faché
    I like this work, Thomas.
  • theoneiota
    excellent work nowness.

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    Zeng Fanzhi: Beneath and Beyond

    Our Chinese Language Site Launches with an Intimate Portrait of China’s Leading Painter

    Record-breaking Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi looks back on his time at the Hubei Academy of Fine Arts and explains his obsession with calligraphy in this short by Hong Kong-based filmmaker Ringo Tang. Propelled onto the global stage after one work from his seminal Masks series sold for $9.7 millions dollars at a Christie’s auction in 2008, a record for contemporary Asian art, the thoughtful Zeng was captured in his studio over three days of shooting. “I decided to backlight the artworks so that the brushstrokes and techniques are very clear,” explains Tang. Employing a unique method in which two or more brushes are employed simultaneously, Zeng uses one brush to carefully paint his subject on the canvas while the other destroys it with a frenzy of linear strokes, thereby creating a landscape of underlying tension. His extensive Masks series of the 90s explored the psychological challenges confronting the rapidly modernizing Chinese population—depicting his subjects with white-masked faces, blank stares and grotesquely oversized hands, uncomfortably posed in their new Western-style suits and ties. Longtime friends, Tang first met Zeng nearly 20 years ago in his hometown of Wuhan during an art tour with a curator from Hong Kong. “I met him right after he finished school. He didn’t have much money and his studio didn’t have a washroom, so he used one at the hospital,” Tang says of a circumstance that led to Zeng’s Hospital series. “Then in 1993 after Zeng’s first exhibition in Hong Kong, it really opened art critics’ eyes to China.”

    NOWNESS launches its Chinese language website today. Explore it here.

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    Max Snow: Ghost of the Pale Horse

    The New York Artist Captures the Spirit of Long Island for a Fourth of July Exhibition

    “It’s an assemblage of vignettes about metamorphosis, the journey of the spirit from one realm to the next,” explains photographer Max Snow about his first film, made in collaboration with Montauk’s bohemian haven, The Surf Lodge. Snow tapped America’s master composer Philip Glass—an old friend—for an eerie minimalist soundtrack to this meditation on one of the East Coast’s most arresting spots. The New York-based artist regularly plunders mythology to inform his imagery, and here sought to highlight the “original soul of the place” by eliminating any man-made items from the footage, aside from clothes, and cast classic-looking beauty Loulou Robert as his modern siren Hero to an unseen and lost Leander. “She has duende, something that cannot be put into words,” Snow says of his French protagonist who was the muse of Dutch duo Inez & Vinoodh in V magazine’s March 2012 issue. The video arose from his summer-long artist residency and collaboration with the beach-side hotspot, resulting in a capsule collection of men’s clothing and an exhibition to be mounted over Independence Day weekend. Snow is married to stylist-of-the-moment Vanessa Traina and has been building his resumé over the past few years, with exhibitions at Colette in Paris and Marina Gisich in St. Petersburg. How will he celebrate today’s federal holiday? On the South Fork, he says, “blowing shit up,” as per his annual tradition.

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