Yu Hong

1966 | Xi’an, People’s Republic of China
Yu Hong — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Yu Hong, Courtesy of the artist

Chinese painter.

At the age of 14 YU Hong began her artistic training at the Subsidiary High School of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing. She was later accepted into the oil painting programme at CAFA, where she was the only woman among the 13 students in the department. In 1988 she became a teacher in the oil painting department and held her first solo exhibition there two years later. She became a mother soon after she married Chinese artist Liu Xiaodong in 1993. In 1995 her proficiency in figural realism gained her admission into the Master of Fine Arts programme at CAFA, coinciding with the time that a Chinese contemporary art scene was in the making.
After the decade-long Cultural Revolution came to an end in 1976, artists in China began searching for a new artistic language. For the first time in decades artists felt more freedom to stray from the government-sanctioned Socialist Realist art style and reinvent a new culture. Yu Hong was among the group of artists known as the New Generation, whose works were often considered highly personal. Witness to Growth (1991-) is an example of a series of artworks that were inspired by her own life. In Yu Hong Two Years Old (1999-2002), for example, she is seen walking hand-in-hand with her mother at the park. As a commentary of her life growing up in the socialist era, she juxtaposes the painting with an image from a pictorial published in the 1960s, in which youthful Red Guards are holding poster reproductions of Liu Chunhua’s (b. 1944) oil painting Chairman Mao on his Way to Anyuan (1967) – an image that became recognisable by every household in China at the time.

Yu Hong continued to develop the theme of women’s life in society through her She series (2003). As a way to present the intersection of historical memory and personal experience, she depicts various women in their public and private spaces. In She – Policewoman (2004), a female police officer is portrayed in the setting of a reception window at a police station. In the left panel are thirty standard ID photographs of the woman, implying her disciplined identity as a police officer.
In 2013 Yu Hong presented a new body of work in a solo exhibition, Yu Hong: Wondering Clouds, at the Long March Space in Beijing. Artworks in the exhibition reveal the emotional lives of her sitters, many of whom have suffered from depression. In Plain Fingers (2013) a sombre girl is shown in two reclining positions, as an array of hands in varying poses float above her. Her more recent painting, The World of Saha (2019), refers to the Buddhist expression, “the world to be endured.” Thematic elements of this series include Indian cosmology and human resilience.
Yu Hong has exhibited in group exhibitions at Michael Goedhuis, New York, the Upriver Art Museum, Chengdu, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, among many others. Her work is held in public collections at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, the Singapore Art Museum, and the Shanghai Art Museum.

Meghan Ruyle

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring

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