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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Yu Hong

b. 1966, China

One of China's most recognised female artists, Yu Hong is known for her large-scale figurative paintings that depict the experiences of contemporary Chinese women. Although born into the Socialist Realist tradition, she has developed a unique and intimate visual vocabulary that often takes inspiration from her own life and the lives of those around her. Yu works in oil paint, pastels and fabric dyes, painting on canvas, silk and resin.

Two years after graduating from Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts, Yu organised a group show in the school's exhibition hall titled The World of Women Artists (1990). The well-received exhibition included the work of eight female painters in their 20s, and according to Yu, was 'essentially the only one that focused on women artists at the time.' Yu continued to gain recognition as a member of the New Generation artists—a term that refers to a group of young artists who broke away from the state-sponsored Socialist Realism in China. The group included Yu's husband, painter Liu Xiaodong. The New Generation Art Exhibition (1991) at the National Museum of Chinese History in Beijing featured emerging artists, including Yu, and their commitment to a realistic representation of ordinary life.

Over the decades and amidst the ebbing popularity of Political Pop and Cynical Realism, Yu has continued to explore the complexities of life as a woman in contemporary China. Her female protagonists range from old to young, traditional to modern, and active to stationary; they also echo a fragment of the past or travel across time and exist in dialogue with their forebears. Initiated in the 1990s, the ongoing series 'Witness to Growth' sees Yu juxtaposing self-portraits with an image selected from the news. Riffing on ancient Chinese history, her large-scale eight-panel painting Romance of Spring (2008) duplicates the composition of a Tang Dynasty painting, but the 12 female figures in Yu's painting are decidedly contemporary in their attitudes and dress. Chinese society today is widely characterised by its rampant modernisation and rapid globalisation; Yu is both optimistic and pessimistic about such a state and often includes subtle absurdities in her paintings to reflect its strangeness. In a 2013 interview with Tate, the artist said, 'You probably got the sense of optimism and happiness because I use vivid colours but my work also harbours worries about the world and people.'

In addition to drawing from Chinese history, Yu borrows widely from Western painting traditions. As the artist once said, her 'perspective is Asian, but the human condition is universal so [the work's] themes are universal.' For the 2010 exhibition Golden Sky at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, Yu decorated the ceiling with four large, four-panel paintings inspired by earlier works of art including a Buddhist cave painting and Italian Renaissance ceiling frescos. In the works, Yu painted her figures against a golden background reminiscent of European religious paintings. (Indeed, her paintings often incorporate such gold and iridescent backgrounds.) A later work, One hundred years of repose (2011), similarly takes the shape of its panels from the van Eyck brothers' Ghent Altarpiece (1432) and uses actual gold leaf.

In 2018, Yu exhibited an experimental virtual reality project She's Already Gone (2017) at Faurschou Foundation in Beijing. In the ambitious work that consists of four hand-painted scenes, the female protagonist navigates through various events that transcend time. The narrative begins with the birth of the protagonist at a modern hospital; as she grows and moves forward in time, history reverses and takes her through the Cultural Revolution and the Ming Dynasty, ending with a shamanistic ritual during the Neolithic times.

Yu Hong received a BFA (1988) and MFA (1996) in oil painting from The Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, where she became a teacher upon graduation. Since her first shows in 1990, Yu has exhibited internationally at Faurschou Foundation, Beijing (2018); Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, (2017); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2010); and Long March Space, Beijing (2013, 2006) among others. She has also participated in numerous international fairs, notably Art Basel (2014, 2015, 2016, 2018), the Shanghai Biennale (2004) and the Venice Biennale (1997, 1993). In 2013 Yu exhibited Wondering Clouds at Long March Space—a major solo exhibition that continued her exploration of human nature and individual experiences. Yu currently lives and works in Beijing.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

聖嬰 by Yu Hong contemporary artwork Yu Hong聖嬰, 2008 Print
93 x 87 cm
Eslite Gallery
斗篷 by Yu Hong contemporary artwork Yu Hong斗篷, 2008 Print
93 x 87 cm
Eslite Gallery

Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group exhibition, Over the Rainbow 看見彩虹 at Eslite Gallery, Taipei
Closed
1–31 March 2019 Group exhibition Over the Rainbow 看見彩虹 Eslite Gallery, Taipei

In Ocula Magazine

Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

Read More

In Related Press

25 Oil Paintings: 1993-2007 Liu Xiaodong Related Press 25 Oil Paintings: 1993-2007 Liu Xiaodong ArtAsiaPacific : 6 June 2018

Can Contemporary Chinese art be revived as a tool for social critique? Returning to the traditional medium of painting, Liu Xiaodong, whose solo exhibition '25 Oil Paintings: 1993-2007' was up at Yallay Gallery in Hong Kong in March, makes a renewed case for this question, departing from the legacy of socialist realism that has occupied the medium...

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MoCA Shanghai announces 'Shanshui Within' featuring 16 contemporary Chinese artists Related Press MoCA Shanghai announces 'Shanshui Within' featuring 16 contemporary Chinese artists CAFA Art Info : 25 August 2016

On September 3, 2016, sixteen contemporary Chinese artists will display several of their works at MoCA Shanghai as part of the museum’s new exhibition, Shanshui Within. The works will provide viewers with the artists’ unique interpretations of traditional Chinese culture and how it evolved as a result of the rapid development of...

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