Yu likes to observe individuals in her surroundings, and she likes to make paintings about the past and present. She has grown from a girl who loved drawing and painting into a renowned artist, who depicts changes happening around her that reflect the development of society. The paintings she has created accord with the four decades of progress since China started to implement its policy of reform and opening-up in 1978.
Unlike other professional painters, who can spend most of their time concentrating on creating works, Yu has to carefully arrange her working hours. She usually teaches her students at China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in the morning and paints in the afternoon. Yu encourages her students to exert their imagination, based on their observations of people and the world. "Different from photography, painting is not about seizing a moment, but about forming 'sediments' of our time after long-term observations. The power of painting lies in the spiritual world established between an artist and his/her works," she says.
The birth of her daughter, Liu Wa, somehow influenced Yu's creation of paintings. As Yu witnessed her daughter's growth from a baby girl, she started to recall her own growth. After her daughter entered kindergarten, Yu had more time to make paintings about her life experiences. She looked over her old photo albums and selected one photo from each year following her birth as references.
The "Witness to Growth" series includes many paintings about Yu's past. She was born in Xi'an in 1966, and she started to learn to draw and paint at the Beijing Children's Palace in 1974. Influenced by her mother, Yu began to develop her interest in painting when she was 4. In 1980, Yu told her mother she wanted to enter the Fine Arts School Affiliated with CAFA. Four years later, Yu became famous in her school. After she enrolled in CAFA'S oil painting department, she created her first work — a portrait of David (a masterpiece of
Renaissance sculpture created by Italian artist
Michelangelo). Yu's portrait was later printed on the cover of a fine arts textbook used nationwide.
She fell in love with Liu
Xiaodong, one of China's best known contemporary artists, in 1988, and she married him in 1993. After she gave birth to their daughter, in 1994, Yu added a new theme to her work through her "Witness to Growth" series.
The paintings about Liu Wa focus more on the girl's hobbies. For example, the painting created in 1999 shows Liu Wa preparing to perform a belly dance; the painting from 2000 is about a girl holding a football; the painting from 2005 is about her performing gymnastics; and, the painting from 2008 shows a girl skating on a street. Yu says she and her husband both encourage their daughter to do what she likes.
Yu continues to create one painting every year under the "Witness to Growth" series. Meanwhile, Liu Wa paints portraits for her parents when they celebrate their birthdays every year. Since Liu Wa has grown up, the image of her depicted in her mother's paintings has also changed. She has grown from a little girl, leaning on her mother, into a heroine in the central position of each painting.
Like many other artists who are also mothers, Yu has tried hard to balance the time spent taking care of her child and on art creation, especially during the early years after she became a mother. As her daughter gradually grew up, Yu realized she must shoulder her responsibilities as a mother, while at the same time creating works of art as a female artist. She started to use her works to explore the relationship between women and society.
Since the early 1990s, when Yu became a famous painter, her paintings have been widely regarded as resembling a "biography," even if Yu did not paint about herself. Responding to such comments, Yu says, "I am living in a crowd of people. I have discovered many touching stories, which are related to sensitivity, weakness, dignity, separation, honesty and love. Those stories have inspired me to paint."
Yu Hong was born in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, in 1966. She graduated with a master's degree in fine arts from CAFA in 1998. She has been teaching at CAFA since then. Yu held her first solo exhibition in Beijing in 1990, and she participated in the 45th Venice Biennale, Italy, in 1993. Her exhibition, "Witness to Growth," was held in Beijing and Shenzhen in 2002. Yu has participated in many exhibitions at home and abroad. Her works have attracted collectors in both China and other countries.
Modern Weekly cover No. 512 October 11, 2008 China's First Step in Space《周末画报》2008 年 10 月 11 日第 512期封面：中国走出太空第一步 2008 Forty-two Years Old 2008 年 42 岁 2008 Fourteen Years Old 2008 年刘娃 14岁