He Hongbei’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.
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. Taken to the extreme, life becomes a shallow bubble of illusions.
The strength of He Hongbei’s art lies both in the concept of her paintings, the “message”that they convey, and the technical realization. A fascinating visualization of innocence, reminding of European Renaissance portraits, 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. The paintings are a high quality demonstration of the creativity of Chinese artists.
This beautiful artwork is exhibited at the AAF in Amsterdam in October 2021