Ye Hongxing is a Beijing-based artist whose new project, East of Eden, is being hosted by Scream Gallery in London. Interested in the rapid social, religious and technological progress in China, her dense and glittering pieces have been exhibited at Art Basel in Miami and Hong Kong by Christian Louboutin. Her current exhibition is a follow-up to a show last year, which sold out. Schön! spoke to the artist about her spectacular work, on display until December 7th.
How did you become interested and involved in art generally, and this project more specifically?
I developed a strong interest in painting when I was a child. There’s very little visual information available in my hometown—the only art related materials were traditional Chinese new year pictures and movie posters. I wanted more, so came up with the idea to study fine art at university. I worked on improving my work, and eventually was accepted by one. During the learning process I came to have a better understanding of both art and myself. Gradually, I used to express myself in art and stream my sentiments into it.
Apart from fine art, I’ve always had an interest in handcrafts and other integrated media. I also have experimented with some ceramic, metal, stone small sculptures, accessories and home decorations.
My most recent works are very joyful—they’re pleasant and dazzling compared to what I was working on last year. I’ve adjusted the elements I use in my work, adding a lot of plants and animals. They interact and coexist with all the human figures in the images and constitute a harmonious world together. Isn’t it a scene from utopia! That’s why the series is named “East of Eden”.
How did you come to decide on glass beads and stickers as your medium? Why does it appeal to you?
I am using small fragments of materials first of all because it’s my personal preference – I like dense materials.
Secondly, using these materials is a conscious challenge to traditional and conventional mediums. A sticker has an enormous amount of information in it. There is the link to everyday life, the games kids play, characters from popular programmes. Stickers reflect the time we are living in, and they are fragmented, mosaic, so I can give them a new order in the landscape I’m creating. I like the fact that my pictures look different from a distance and up close. I buy the stickers from a local retail shop every two weeks; they are convinced I’m buying them and selling them on! They say, “Oh your stickers must be selling well”.
The final reason is the need to create different possibilities for the work and a new visual experience for the viewer.
Do you consider your current work to be a statement? What statement would you like your viewers to take away from your work?
My work expresses a state of mind. There was never a clear orientation to my work. I hope to communicate with audience about spiritually, leaving more space for imagination and interpretation. Caught in the frenzy of China’s economic and technological progress, the pieces aim to comment on that progress’s dizzying impact on its people, highlighting the fusion of modern technology and secularism with the more traditional and spiritual aspects of Chinese culture.
How does each piece develop? Do you start with a visual you want to create or with an idea that you would like to express?
I would say both. I have different inspirations at different times —sometimes it’s an image that speaks to me, other time it’s an idea that I would like to explore more. I was born in the 70s when there was massive social, political and economic change in China. This had a big impact on my later work, but people born in a different decade would have a different experience. I try not to talk too much about my work, but to let it speak for itself. It depends on a personal interpretation and hopefully everyone can find what they want in it.
Ye Hongxing: East of Eden at Scream, 27-28 Eastcastle St, W1W 8DH until 7 December. Entrance is free.
Words / Lucinda Beeman