“In today’s China there are these bizarre combinations of age-old superstitious beliefs, communism, Confucianism, western culture and capitalism. It’s from this that my narratives are born.”
Hu Renyi was born at the tail end of the Cultural Revolution in Suzhou. While having no first hand experience of these culturally and artistically restrictive years, he began his experiences in an environment equally occupied with the hopeful promises of the future and the painful memories of the recent past. The characters of his childhood were family, friends, poets, painters, criminals and the ever-present government officials. Alongside this cast are the people who populated the vivid history lessons of his father – political figures, revolutionaries, heros and villains.
Renyi’s paintings present themselves as tableaus of a bold and primary palate where familiar figures from history may occupy space with neighborhood familiars and self-portraits. Stories and experiences from his youth take shape and form in the surrealist manner of memories and dreams. Familiar faces are still to be found. During the Cultural Revolution, Mao was smoking cigarettes – a symbol of the modernization of his China. Now this is replaced with bubblegum and hamburgers – a more fitting as symbol of progression for the dreams of a young Renyi.
If we listen now, through Hu Renyi’s paintings, we all can hear the sounds of a new China. The trials of the past, the hopes for the future speak in oil and ink with the voice of a child’s memories.