Zhuang Hong Yi brings together two seemingly discordant traditions- the Western and the Eastern. As a globally renowned artist from a Chinese background, but one who has established himself in the West, particularly in the Netherlands, Zhuang is in a unique position to unite the two cultures. The artist has managed to do so in a highly idiosyncratic manner by creating three-dimensional paintings made of painstakingly hand-folded origami rice-paper flowers covered in colour-shifting layers of acrylic and oil paint. Principally, he works with the Chinese medium of rice paper and the illustrious Dutch flower landscapes.
Here, the artist’s patina is clearly visible as the impasto strokes are expressive and liberated, simultaneously referencing the tradition of (Western) Impressionism, but from a very contemporary angle. The subject matter of most of his works also aligns with Impressionism, but whilst the traditional works in the latter attempted to capture the natural light and the way in which it was reflected in the fields, grasses and flowers en plein air, Zhuang adds the third dimension to his works in a very literal sense.
A key difference with the works of Zhuang Hong Yi however is that they need to be considered as both sculpture and painting. As the artist notes himself, the creation of his works is akin to a kind of meditation and hence this state of mind should also be mirrored within the viewer when he comes across Zhuang’s works. This is comparative to how one typically consumes any image- whether it is commercial or a work of art. Culturally we are accustomed to instantly judge an image before us and move onto the next one without necessarily taking the time to absorb all the minute aspects of it.
As for the works of Zhuang however, the viewer must walk past it whilst paying considerable attention to the painting/sculpture in order to be rewarded with the colour transformation. This is achieved because the singular rice paper flowers are arranged in very tight clusters creating an inflorescence, which in botany is a group of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches.
Here however, the stem is the frame of the work and the branch is the foundation upon which the clusters of flowers are fixed. Inflorescence also stands for the physical process of flowering, and as you shall see throughout his body of work the artist has managed to capture this in spite of it being so illusive.
Born in 1962 in Sichuan Province, China, Zhuang Hong Yi started his fine art training at the Sichuan College of Fine Arts in China and subsequently studied at the Academie Minerva in the Netherlands, where he currently resides.
Zhuang is one of the most prominent contemporary Chinese artists to date, as witnessed by him being selected to represent China at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. He has seen wide commercial success, having been shown at many important art fairs, such as Art Basel, Art Miami, EXPO Chicago, TEFAF Maastricht, and The Armory Show in New York City. Zhuang has been equally popular on the museum side with exhibitions at the Museum Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany in 2019 and Museum de Zwarte Tulip Lisse in the Netherlands, amongst others.
Furthermore, his works are included in various prestigious private and museum collections globally, including the Museum of Sichuan Fine Art in China and the Groninger Museum and Stadsmuseum Zoetermeer in the Netherlands.
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