Paintings

Shreds of Reality Confront the Origin of Memory
– Casual thoughts about Ren Hong’s Red Memory series

Ren Hong is striving to find the link between her understanding of the past, the current cultural situation, and a description of modern humanity. The material existence of modern people’s lives is being controlled by a mechanical civilization, but how do we explain it on a spiritual level? Ren Hong doesn’t seem to give a clear answer in her work, she doesn’t intend to think for the audience, she believes that every person who sees her work will make their own judgment.
The material for her work is derived from political icons and images of the masses from the 1960’s and 70’s. Based on her own vision and feelings, these images are interpreted as Red Memories. That part of history has had an extensive influence not just in China, but also in other parts of the world. Even in its present manifestation, Red Memory has already existed for a long time.
Today, anxieties and barriers between people, brought on by a business-oriented urban environment, have left us too busy to recollect our memories. However, just like the future is an extension of the past, the past unobtrusively permeates our present. We can’t avoid systems or ideology. To emphasize this idea, Ren abandoned traditional visual methods in her compositional format. She borrows symbols that are subjective, metaphorical and repeated to cover different content and erase the past. The work expresses the artist’s memories of the past, which have lost their intensity because of changes in time and space. But at the same time her modern technique suggests that the present is walking through the past.
Using symbols like pots, flags, and flying birds, the Red Memory series overlaps historical images with present ones. Her paintings have a strong sense of composition and hypnotic rhythm. A single form continues in four directions, repeating itself densely yet rhythmically. This painting technique poses a challenge for Ren Hong’s patience. But every work is dynamic, and colorful. Upon first sight they give you visual satisfaction but the religious devotion makes you bewildered. In fact it is just an illusion to force the audience to think, judge and explore the work. She is recalling historical spirit and emotion, observing the past from the present. Just as most other people face today’s reality, she bears more responsibility, and awaits self-assurance. At the same time she longs for escape from the conflict of self-denial. In return, society provides her with a present that is both glamorous and messy.
Ren Hong tries to bring her meticulous observation of reality and her exploration of visual expression_r into a deep introspection of life. She has introduced us to an all-new visual experience. She’s trying to build her own unique visual language in order to express her consciousness and feeling.
As long as we continue to breathe, the spiritual past and present are under the same roof. As for artistic expression_r, it is difficult to neatly juxtapose complicated feelings and images, but it is also motivation for the artist. Ren Hong has decomposed the spiritual world into symbols and shreds; then arranged them tediously, repetitively, but also meticulously, surprisingly corresponding to reality’s rhythm and flow of images. They are the basic state of current life in China, flooded with unprecedented, material-driven consumption. It is structural transformation that brought colorful yet superficial changes into our lives, but the structure is still full of uncertainty and loopholes. This is also Ren’s reason for creating powerful, formal beauty.
Ren Hong believes that as personal choices and freedom keep growing, there are all kinds of possibilities in China. These possibilities appear on all levels. It is an atmosphere that surrounds everything, not just individuals, but groups and society. Everywhere there are meretricious actions and opportunism; everywhere there is an expectation of simple orders. Life sometimes makes you confused, at other times, excited. This is the result of unprecedented, intense changes. These circumstances also brought Ren Hong an endless force of artistic imagination. Frustrated by the encroaching distance of reality, she decomposes it. What interests the audiences most is that she put the “red age” in the background while the modern elements fill out to the edge of the canvas, creating a mysterious and transparent veil over the main characters. An attitude of rigidly contemplating social reality is apparent in her work. Ren creates her paintings with tremendous patience, accentuating the compromise between consciousness and environment, so that the power of persistence appears. This persistence shows everywhere on the canvas, filled in every meticulous stroke. With her feminine tenderness and pilgrim’s volition, she is quietly depicting the potential conflict of society in the historical process. With her own experience and observations she’s helping to build social diversity.
Ren Hong’s very particular about blending individualistic symbols into past situations. If you look closely at her paintings, they seem to only have a background, while the main part is blurry. An old man who saw her work the first time inquired, “Miss, your painting is very beautiful, but has the cover been taken off yet?” In front of intense and intriguing visual effects, a lot people raised the same question. Why is it like this? Is the present really more lucid than the past?
When the shreds of reality confront the origin of memory, the future slowly melts into the past. But there are always a lot of people who are intent to unveil it. This desire turns into a strong force that suddenly makes reality feel expected.

Shan Shui
2007-5-12