Zhuang Hong Yi

24 Mar — 14 Apr 2017 at Unit London in London, United Kingdom

15 MARCH 2017
Zhuang Hong Yi, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Unit London
Zhuang Hong Yi, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Unit London

Zhuang Hong Yi (b. SiChuan, China, 1962) is an internationally renowned contemporary artist who has lived in the Netherlands for the past two decades. His work - a powerfully elegant expression of the cultural connections between Europe and China - has a broad international following across Europe and Asia especially. Hong Yi’s concern with environmental issues is reflected in his repetitive use of floral patterns, highlighting the increasing urbanisation of his home country, the ferocious plundering of natural resources and the depopulation of the rural environment. Following the success of his first London exhibition in 2015, RAW - which inaugurated our flagship gallery in Soho - Zhuang Hong Yi returns to the gallery with RAW II offering another chance to witness this artist’s captivating and iridescent works.

Zhuang Hong Yi’s much-anticipated second exhibition at Unit London includes new works that further demonstrate the artist’s use of two dominant yet distinct mediums. As well as the artist’s more traditional painting style using acrylic in heavily sculpted and gestural impasto, Hong Yi’s Flowerbed series is produced with painstakingly folded origami rice-paper flowers covered in colour-shifting layers of pigments and acrylic. From a distance the colours shimmer iridescently and as the observer moves across the work, the colours shift and change, transforming the image. From a closer vantage point, the meticulously twisted paper flowers and layers of paint take centre stage. The seamless and graceful blend of Chinese and Western cultural influences in Zhuang Hong Yi’s work reflects his upbringing and education in China followed by years of European experience and inspiration since his move to the Netherlands in 1990, where he has settled with his artist wife, Luluo. A love of flowers is in abundant evidence throughout Hong Yi’s work and links the two dominant cultural influences of his life. While the Netherlands’ relationship with flowers is well documented - finding its most potent expression in the tulip mania of the 17th century - in China flowers are uniquely symbolic, representing growth, fulfillment and prosperous beginnings, as well as manifesting good Chi.

Recurrent in Hong Yi’s work are the lucky Chrysanthemum and the Lotus flowers, signifiers of metaphysical purity and strength. Even after decades of living in Europe, Zhuang Hong Yi maintains a studio in Beijing, where he returns a few times each year to work, collecting new materials and inspirations.

Hong Yi’s floral motifs can be found in the Museum of Sichuan Fine Art in China, the Groninger and Stadsmuseum Zoetermeer in the Netherlands and in both private and museum collections in New York, Abu Dhabi, Morocco, Denmark, London, Geneva, Hong Kong, Singapore and Beirut.