Chen Hongzhu is one of the New Generation of Chinese women: confident and rebellious, she graduated from the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts and her work has already been picked up by the Chinese contemporary uber-collector Uli Sigg. Influenced by American painters such as Mark Ryden and John Currin, her zoomorphic self-portraits meld surrealism with self-examination. They depict seemingly perfect porcelain dolls that are nevertheless damaged & fragile, the cuts and dripping blood on the otherwise pristine bunnies hinting at traumas faced and survived. Her paintings suggest a tragedy in beauty: a kind of disappointed innocence that refuses to give up.
‘Most of my work deals with the injured warmth of memory or disrupted fantasies. I believe that in every person’s heart lives two children– one that turns to the light and another that feeds on darkness. Your entire life you must look after and appease these two children. The girls’ wounds symbolize their feeling of detachment from their surroundings. People cannot attempt to evade or keep their distance from evil, because it will pursue them without release. You can only accept its attack, open your body and mind and let it penetrate you. What doesn’t leave behind a scar or bruise, marks what is pure. Some memories of injury are like the wounds of a person’s own self-awareness from acknowledging only their innermost heart’s feelings. My own way of explaining and comprehending this place we inhabit is to ask myself and everyone else whether or not we have the courage to hide our heart’s own darkness. One can only know the true depth of darkness from the light that shines after the storm. Despite the thorns and brambles that may entangle the body in darkness, the journey towards light can be one of incomparable beauty, though the sunshine that comes afterwards can be both sorrowful and frightening. Both sides of humanity can be contained by man’s aspirations and his love of life. I often paint people and animals together because I feel animals embody the collective unconscious of humanity. Mankind’s inner naive and reclusive self can be expressed well by the animals, almost as if they are mirrors showing a reflection of humanity. My pictures often obscure the boundary between man and animal, and in this way display an even clearer view of humankind.’