From his early figurative paintings and sculptures to later abstractions, Ren Sihong explores the psychological, emotional, and physical terrains of the human experience, as well as the metaphorical potential of colour.Read More
Ren Sihong studied oil painting at the Hebei Normal University, graduating in 1991, after which he took part in the Teaching Assistant Programme at Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts. It was there in 1993 that he held his first solo exhibition. After graduating, Ren became an artist-in-residence at Yuan Ming Yuan artist village—the earliest artist village in modern China—until it closed in 1995.
Ren Sihong's early works display an interest in the corporeal, many depicting the human body in exaggerated poses or perplexing situations. Note a girl's birthday in the summer of 94 (1994) shows a central naked figure kneeling on a piano next to a girl crouching; a third figure, on the right, wears what appears to be a drum over his or her head. In Woman on rooftop (1995) a naked woman bends over on a rooftop; the pallor of her body contrasts the grey sky and the sombre tones of the roof tiles.
Ren Sihong's practice also extends to three-dimensional media. In fibreglass and bronze, the artist has created sculptures that often portray cartoonish figures with oversized heads. Recurring protagonists include people engaged in sports, as in Broadcast exercise (2005), and Mao Zedong, who leads exercises in Great man gym (2005)—a group of four fiberglass sculptures covered entirely in red.
Mao also features in a number of Ren Sihong's paintings. Riding the waves in Surfing Mao (2006), his body almost fading into the red sky behind him, while in Past idol (2006), a woman gazes down at a statuette of the Chairman. In 2017, when his father passed away, however, Ren Sihong shifted his painting practice toward a monochromatic palette. His brushwork and subject matter also became more abstract at that time, as can be seen in Determination.Freedom-West Gold No.2 (2017).
In 2018, Ren embraced colour once more for his 'Value of Colors' series, for which the artist devised new meanings for the primary colours: red is a symbol for the sun and energy; blue represents the Moon and wisdom; and yellow is the Earth and morality. In 2020, a number of 'Value of Colors' works were exhibited at Ren's solo show, Enlightenment, at Whitestone Gallery, Hong Kong, along with his 'Black and White' paintings and new paintings produced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2020