When the red becomes the memory

                         About the standpoint and the meaning of Ren Hong’s “red memory series


Since the appearance of Pop Art, using various public images has become habitual skills for artists. However, when post-modernism comes out, which challenges the modernism idea that emphasizes individual character and creation, we must recognize the importance of the standpoint and style coming from artists using public images. So when we retrospect the modern art in China in 90s last century, it can be easily found that those figures, such as Mao, have been used by many artists in their works as a typical sign because they possess the special political and culture meanings. And this style has become Chinese contemporary art phenomenon, thus, these artists’ standpoint will be the basic starting point when we discuss it. In general, around 90s in last century, political Pop Art expressed the artist’s puzzle about the special period-1989-1992, who experienced “85 New Wave Movement”, and also show their self-reflection and critique on Chinese reality after 1992, another revolution age with the market economy. After 1995, those critique and review on revolution age, perplexity with joke, began to be amplified and form strong culture strength. But this makes people who did not experience that time puzzled, what is the real history? The female artist Ren Hong shows us the red time that is full with passion and turbulence by her own style. In the “Red Memory Series”, the pigeons, arrow points and other patterns spread all over the painting, which presents us a kind of visual effect as illusions. Those complicated art language, but full of texture informs those yearn for her childhood and the time that filling with dream and romance. All of these express by focusing on depicting Mao. So, in my opinion, it is the individual standpoint of Ren Hong’s work, and the key point that we will explain here.


In my view, when it comes to use Mao’s images, there are differences from most contemporary artists in Ren Hong’s work. Say in brief, by observing the standpoint and style in “Red Memory Series”, there are some characteristics followed: first, Ren Hong used Mao’s images positively. Mao, in her description, stood in the rostrum of Tian An Men to wave hand in greeting, or talked with populace intimately, or investigated in village. She attempted to return the origin figure that impressed her, that was a gentle elder, a wisdom leader, an idol who was unable to substitute. Probably there are no special meanings for those who experienced that time. However, if we stand in contemporary point, compared with the images that created by the artists, who tended to political pop 90s in last century, we will find Ren Hong’s unique. At the beginning, the artists often deal with Mao’s images from the respect of self-reflection and critique with checks or criticizing. In fact, all of these contain the profound reconsideration on that time. But Ren Hong expresses a completely opposite meaning, although she adopted a similar form. She used those public images that undertaking the collective memory, nevertheless, she inclines to express childhood’s memory by individual angle. Certainly, this is obviously distinguished from works in later period of political Pop Art, which is ridiculous and vulgar, or even smears Mao’s images. Second, when it comes to the art language, Ren Hong likes to choose red as the basic color tone in her paintings. She named her work “Red Memory” appropriately as well. Actually, red is not only the symbol of those days in “Red Memory Series”, but also represents the way of the artist recalling that time. In other words, when Mao’s head portrait was set off by innumerable red flags close to the wind, the painter not only recalled that time, but the reminiscence is also full with passion. Although we do not wave our fists again and the red flags do not swing with the wind, why is the red memory still so precious in the modern society in where is full of material desires and lures? When our society is in an unequal competition which results in a large gap between rich and poor, perhaps the Utopia in Mao’s thought shows us more real meaning. To some extent, this is the real thing that Ren Hong wants to express with her recall of red time.


Moreover, Ren Hong’s most distinguishing feature is the intense design feeling in her paintings. She puts flags, arrow points, pigeons and other patterns in line again and again in whole pictures in order to create a kind of dreamlike beauty. Because the changes from color to pattern link up very well, which results in enormous aesthetic enjoyment, at the same time, the viewers will surprise by the skills of expressing this kind of visual effects. But this aesthetic enjoyment is not come from the paintings themselves, but exists in the communication between viewers and paintings. At the same time, those massive same patterns’ juxtastandpoint continuously causes the vagueness in images, and also resulting in the visual effect in depth. So we could say that the whole appearance of picture is similar to a jigsaw puzzle, just as the combination of people’s memory, which have been crushed down to fragments by historical wheels, or painter depicted these yarn with patterns on canvas in order to pursue a kind of distant feeling to retrospect history. Anyhow, the excellent design in the painting creates a different visual enjoyment, and shows the painter’s superior skills. Of course, the skill only is the way to reach an idea state, what Ren Hong really wants to do is that she wishes to build a real but also memorial world with art marks. As Pulust said in <Time flows like a stream>, “the true life is the rebirth of life, which get from the recreation of memory.” But the differences between Pulust and Ren Hong lie in that, one depended on rich language, one assisted by reconstruction of images. However, the reconstruction in “Red Memory Series”, basically, hopes that the people who experience the revolution age can remember the complex and colorful meaning of their life forever, when we are living in such a time, without shouting slogans and waving fists, or even lacking self-reflection.





2007/6/8 wrote in Chongqin