Ode To Art in Conversation: 任振宇 Ren Zhen Yu
The era of contemporary art has been marked by global influence, cultural diversity and a dynamism of materials, methods, concepts, and subjects. The new age availability of artistic voice has founded an ideology that promotes the breaking of boundaries and fosters new perspectives. It is important to note that these pillars are built on a foundation of progression, the pioneering evolutions of a more unyielding past but while this resulting confluence of new and old heralds a number of contemporary works today, a less asked question is an imaginative one – how would the past look when seen through the lens of a modern artistic eye? This is the answer to Ren Zhen Yu’s artistic quest. Forceful in colour and vivid in his expositions, the Chinese artist is the embodiment of the contemporary manifesto and a veteran of expressive thought. His current subjects draw from black and white photographs, which the artist then brings to life with a melange of evocative hues. The element of creativity and imagination associated with this process is one the artist holds sacred, even refusing to paint from a coloured photograph due to the ‘instructional’ nature of its colour composition. It also allows him to paint free from judgement, where his subjects do not betray political or contextual predispositions but only stand to provoke observation and thought. In this manner, he also provides insight into ingrained memories of the past and draws relevance to the personality behind the historical significance. As the artist explains, he is primarily concerned with the ‘misreading and transformation’ of images. With this intention of subverting the conventional gaze, Ren’s handpicked repertoire of personalities have surfaced as illuminating portraits to historical pasts and have found widespread favour with the larger public. However, as a professor of art, the teacher in him calls for a continue exploration – a conceptual depth that only seeks to increase with the passing of time. As the artist himself admits, the beginning of his journey was one based on realistic interpretations and technical prowess. But once his work is familiarized, Ren realized that stagnation could only be abated by triggering a conceptual journey forward into the abstract and experimental. This has imbibed his newer works with soul and meaning that transcends the sometimes alienating allure of pure aesthetic skill. His current stage today is one of integration, where he brings together his mastered skill with new implications, ones that surpass decorative purposes and move into cultural responsibility instead. While Ren’s works are undoubtedly feats of both visual and technical mastery, his subliminal layer of conceptual significance gives rise to an inquisitive mindset. For an artwork to incite both visual and mental expansion perhaps defines the direction of contemporary art today. As you thumb through his collection today, it is my hope that the vivid tangibility of his brushstrokes relays the same explorations to you. As the art movement forges forward at breakneck speed, artists like Ren keep alive the belief that the past is not to be forgotten – but examined and progressed into new frontiers with renewed relativity.