Born in Tianjin in 1976, Ren Zhenyu graduated in 1999 from the Tianjin Academy of Fine Art, where he currently works as a lecturer. His great talent has always been recognised and appreciated by renowned galleries and distinguished collectors throughout China, and increasingly all around the world. He has recently achieved fame in Europe through his distinct portrait series of historical and political icons. In his works, Ren plays with a wide spectrum of colours that are juxtaposed to create a unique expressionist interpretation of famous faces and experiments with texture built on layering to reinforce the portrayal of faces from different perspectives. He adopts a manner closer to Pop Art than to the currently dominant Chinese Neo-Realist style.
The Memorial Light And Image Brightness: Mao‚Äôs Face By Ren Zhenyu
It‚Äôs unquestionable that the representation of Mao‚Äôs image in China‚Äôs contemporary art is a splendid but complex phenomena. Contemporary Chinese art can be said to revolve around the person of Mao. The strength of a single image is affirmed by memories of the past - the ambiguity, though, lies in the question of whether the repeating of Mao‚Äôs image is an attempt at healing those memories, or a recollection by means of Saint art?
As Ben Yaming said, in times of technical reproduction, there still remains brilliant artistic expressions of head portraits and face images in the last century. Lu Xun and Mao Zedong‚Äôs images seem to have the power of stateliness and permanence. The responsibility to the face and more importantly, the responsibility to the memories is now the obligation of the artist. Mao‚Äôs head portraits take the salient role of embodying that which is necessary for us to face the modern impact. Our nation‚Äôs thinking and spirit never breaks away from the wizardry of his image - the image that not only can face the calamity of the past, but also the changes of the future. The artistic creation of Mao‚Äôs images fill the void of spiritual desolation of our times where we still need a former deity; a instrument to resist the panic and uneasiness of the present. Whether to laugh or to respect, it is a remedy for the emptiness of our heart, for a while.
Mao‚Äôs face created by Ren Zhenyu manifests Mao in his brilliance. In his last decades, he was a source of inspiration, of countless songs and posters which depicted him as a symbol of brightness, a symbol which remains in our times for many. Ren Zhenyu subtly controls the interaction between brightness and colour to present the diversity of Mao‚Äôs look. This diversity creates questions of whether Ren intends to depict Mao is his real image of The Chairman Mao of the past or to create a new representation with abstract expressionism - to rebuild the past as a means of a salvation. We are left to wonder if the artist wants us to believe that his splendid and young Mao should be preserved in our memory.
These multi-coloured and variegated Mao faces by Ren Zhenyu were created with years of art observation. The technique is completely different from many artists who have previously painted Mao images. In the ‚ÄėSoft Tissue‚Äô series of 2002, the artist had already subtly hidden the facewith abstract color-block with the eyes, lips and facial features revealed in tones of black, white and gray which were meant to imply that the faces were concealed in memory. The artist wanted his work tobe loose and soft, and as a result the vague face appeared in new forms. In his works, Ren Zhenyu uses his tones to manifest the erodent power of time. His recent Mao‚Äôs face has a sharp-cut style: apparently those ‚ÄúSoft Tissue‚ÄĚ became tough, the previous subtle face breaks through the historical fence, springing out to be real. Is this a compelling reminiscence or the seductive brightness? Art becomes not only a secret position of time and history, but also the reflection of the artist‚Äôs interests and feelings.
In his recent works, Mao‚Äôs faces are depicted as the still well-known standard images in his various ages. The rich and bright colour blocks establishes the lively looks, as if the image never dies and lives with us, like a ghost looking at us with arrogant expression. Perhaps it is the reverence from young artist? The face which is painted with abstract color block seems never to be senescent as though life needs its illusion; where the leader needs his ideal image to be kept. Almost suggesting that we can‚Äôt escape from this transit times. He presents the unique Mao‚Äôs face without political bop. It‚Äôs not ironical orprankish, but the remembrance of a politician‚Äôs destiny with image meaning and eidolon.
The artist brings his interpretation of time, which is the sign of spirit. In fact, sometimes the artist put lattice work on the ground, to finalize the passing image. Sometimes, two Mao‚Äôs faces appears in apainting with gun fire, obviously he clears up the fears through a playful heart. Accordingly it shows that artist brings personal sentiment in paintings.
Any Mao‚Äôs face would meet rejection or with reverence, but importantly it creates an impact - we have to face the magical image. Ren Zhenyu‚Äôs works present the conflict of remembrance. His works will stand at the striking position the records of images, and also provide the spiritual sign to our eventual art history.
Ren Zhenyu‚Äôs interpretation of other emblematic figures of the last 50years, including Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, Diana, Princess of Wales, Barack Obama, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Deng Xiaoping, Lee Kwan Yew, Damian Hirst etc. Through his bold,mesmerizing portraits, Ren investigates the concept and nature of the term ‚Äėicon‚Äô, raising questions about what makes a figure iconic andhow that perception is perpetuated
In Ren's portrait of Deng Xiaoping , leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy. Deng became the core of the "second generation" of Chinese leadership. He isconsidered "the architect" of a new brand of socialist thinking. Deng opened China to foreign investment, the global market, and limited private competition. He was generally credited with developing China into one of the fastest growing economies in the world for over 30 years and raising the standard of living of hundreds of millions of Chinese.
In this painting, through his bold, mesmerizing portraits, Artist Ren Zhenyu presented the unique Deng's face without political bop. It is not ironical or prankish , but the remembrance of a politician's destiny with image meaning and eidolon.
These political "faces" would meet rejection or with reverence, but moreimportantly it creates an impact - we have to face the magical image. Ren Zhenyu‚Äôs works present the conflict of remembrance.
2009: "Icon", London, England
2008: "Wind Flowing", Joyce Gallery, Hong Kong
"New Pop Face", Gallery Beijing Space, Beijing, China
"Another Portrait", Willem Kerseboom Gallery, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2007: "Looks Just Beautiful", Ode To Art Gallery, Singapore
"Looks Just Beautiful", Joyce Gallery, Hong Kong
2005: "In The Name of Face", Gallery Beijing Space, Beijing, China
Guangzhou Modern Art Fair, Guangzhou
2003: The 3rd National Oil Painting Exhibition, Beijing
2002: "New Changes" - Young Artist Nomination, Tianjin Exhibition of Elite Graduates from Mainland China, National Dr. Sun
1999: The 9th National Fine Art Exhibition, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai
2007: ‚ÄúGathering sandcastle‚Äď 2007 New Elite Award‚ÄĚ Beijing
1998: Awarding of ‚Äú7th National oil painting Scholarship"