Ottawa-based contemporary artist Ren Hui, using a modern twist on traditional art forms, explores the connections we live everyday: between people, between man and nature, between our past and our present. These joyful images, rendered through lively wood engravings and colourful paper cuts, will engage and delight viewers with their fresh and playful nature.
In arranging for this Guest Exhibit at The Colborne Art Gallery, Ren Hui has shared a little of the varied path that has brought him to living working and exhibiting in Ontario.
"In my younger days, growing up in Nanjing, China, I did everything from serving in the Chinese navy, to tailoring, to being a worker in a factory manufacturing pistons for massive cargo ships. I eventually abandoned this type of life to cycle solo to Tibet, a journey of around 4000 km. Already I knew that I wanted to experience a wider life, and to express myself through art. Initially, my medium was poetry, but then I turned to things more tactile. First I created paper cuts using scissors and paper. I then started to incise wood to create images. Finally, I moved on to painting, using black ink on rice paper and oil paint on canvas."
I asked Ren Hui about the title of his show and his reply tells us a great deal about the way in which art becomes a continual response and expression of his experiences:
“I have chosen to call this show Connections because I see art as a bridge. The goal of art is communication. I want to show my state of mind, my imagination each time I create a piece, in the hopes that some of the emotions from my artwork will transmit to the viewer – happiness, a sense of relaxation, something elemental that connects to people’s sense of the world, our relationship with nature, with the material and the spiritual. It’s about joy and an openness to the cycle of life and to our futures. I hope to communicate a sense of vitality, using art as a song about life. Whether I am painting, working in wood or creating papercuts, my works are uncomplicated and honest. When people see my art, I hope they receive both an emotional and a material pleasure, a sense of viewing something familiar, but in a new and fresh way. “
Curious about the effect the recent move to Canada would have on his art, I asked Ren Hui to consider that impact:
“I’ve been in Canada for almost two years now. I’ve been very struck by the presence of nature everywhere – greenery, animals, the forest and wonderful natural landscapes. In China, although beautiful places remain, there are very few untouched landscapes. Of the various media I work in, being in Canada has most directly affected my painting. Previously, most of my subjects were people and buildings – faces I knew turned into portraits, and places familiar to me. Now, I’ve started to paint images of trees, plants, and branches, subjects drawn from the wooded areas near where I live. These are still images of real objects, but certainly they are more abstract, with the inspiration for the image not immediately obvious. I’ve also painted some iconic Canadian images, the Parliament buildings for example, as well as an Inukshuk, something I saw and understood for the first time after moving to Canada. “
I asked Ren Hui what he is hoping the viewer will get out of his work:
“My papercuts and woodcuts have always been of more fantastical things, images of people and creatures drawn from imagination. This exhibition forthcoming at the Colborne Art Gallery consists of these types of works. The figures I create often appear with objects such as wheels, apples, fish, eyes, the sun and the moon. When I first started to create these images, I did not have any sort of religious background or feeling in mind. I was not consciously drawing on any specific iconography. Yet, looking again at these images, I realize that these objects have highly symbolic meanings in religions and cultures around the world, and through the ages. Again, there is this idea of “connections”, of common symbols that underline our shared human experience and journey through life as we go through this cycle and search for wisdom. We are connected to nature, to the earth, the sky, and the oceans, as well of course to each other. Borders don’t matter; people and our shared human experience and aspirations are what matter. Hopefully this commonality is something that can be seen and experienced, with a sense of joyfulness, through my art. “
An opening reception with the artists present will be held on Saturday, June 1st from 2 to 4pm. Please join us to meet Ren Hui and enjoy the welcoming atmosphere at The Colborne Art Gallery. The exhibit continues until July 7th, 2013.
The Colborne Art Gallery
51 King St E Colborne ON 905 355 1798
Gallery hours (during shows) March – December, Thursday through Sunday noon to 5 pm
submitted by Barbara Buntin May 2013