Hong Zhu An: In my artworks, I want to express myself perfectly

Acclaimed artist Hong Zhu An shares with Imagine TV Network how he gained solitude in Singapore and why loneliness can be seen and felt in his artworks.

Words by Imagine TV Network

Born into a family of calligraphers, Hong Zhu An, who trained under Wang Zidou at Shanghai Art and Craft Institute, remarks that the famous art scholar taught and enhanced his taste and appreciation towards art.

Image credit: Hong Zhu An

He stresses that his greatest takeaway was not so much in picking up specific skills or techniques but how his taste had been enhanced under Wang's tutelage. Trained in both Eastern and Western art styles, he says he wants to develop and promote the Eastern style.

He shares that in wanting to enhance the essence of Eastern art styles, he learnt and 'absorbed' Western styles and now uses 'Eastern' materials to develop Eastern artworks. "I am always thinking and having ideas but if I cannot find the perfect angle, I will work and work to get that perfect artwork out."

Image credit: Hong Zhu An

In "Essence of zen," he described it as an example of how he used traditional Chinese mediums to create a piece that bears his unique trademark. He draws calligraphic stokes on thin rice papers and creates the base using hundreds of painted rice papers. The color is sombre, he adds, because it is not a 'bright' piece. He incorporates Chinese calligraphy, an art form he began learning during his teenage years, into his artworks and the words he wrote in this particular piece were from many years of research.

He admits that he has failed multiple times in his career and faced numerous challenges because of his own high expectations. "I am not easily satisfied and in my artworks, I want to express myself perfectly," he says candidly. While some of his artworks are painted spontaneously, he reveals that he had spent more than three decades doing research for some of his art pieces.

Image credit: Hong Zhu An

The introverted artist, who was awarded UOB Painting of the Year ‘Grand Award’ in 1994, has museums such as the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Tel Aviv Museum of Art and Singapore Art Museum collecting his works.

Moving to Singapore twenty years ago, he shares that he gained solitude because he could not speak English then and as a result, did not interact with many people.

Gaining solitude, he says, has helped him in his works. "Sometimes it comes in the form of loneliness [or] sadness but there is some eloquence in them." That is why besides the zen, energy and solitude that people would see, and feel, in his works, there is also the presence of loneliness.

His artworks change depending on what he is learning at that point in time but no matter how they evolve, he remarks that his style and essence would be identifiable.

Though the selection of artworks his his upcoming solo exhibition in Singapore were not chosen according to a particular set of criteria, he says they represent his journey in art. "You will see a lot of my essence in them."

20 Years of Art: Retrospective by Hong Zhu An will be exhibited at Ode to Art Raffles City Gallery from 15th to 21st July 2015.



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