He Hongbei


About The Artist

He Hong Bei was born in 1969 in Sichuan, China. With a passion for painting since an early age, she attained a B.F.A from the prestigious Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts. In 1996, Hongbei moved to the USA and then went on to showcase in a long series of exhibitions and attain awards in North America and Asia. In 2006, she returned to Beijing where she lives and works in her studio. The artist’s strikingly skilled and contemplative works can be found in private collections and museums around the world including China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, USA, Canada and Britain. 

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He Hongbei is a strong value-based painter with an eye for changes in the societal world and a desire to comment on the spiritual influence on personality and the state of the mind. Often addressing contemplative and even controversial topics, she focuses on women as her subjects of interest. She explores the dilemmas and contradictions they face on a daily basis which leads to deeper questioning linked to personality, beliefs, values and morals - both in tune with, and in contrast to, society. Her personal experiences have played an important role in influencing her work, such as the birth of her daughter and the awards she has achieved - which have all led to her affirmation as an artist. She has an eye for detail and color in her paintings and is often stunningly realistic in her renditions, creating ambience and communication with the stroke of a brush.



Dumping Garbage - Relax

He Hongbei's latest reflections are on the inner lives of Chinese women and their feelings. 

He Hongbei's most recent series of oil paintings are a seamless and consequential development of her work and consistent approach to art. At the point of winning an important award at the First Guangzhou Biennale in 1992, the focus of her creation was two young girls playing a traditional Chinese musical instrument. Later, her "Painted Letters" described the inner life of Chinese women with respect to love, patience and waiting, unfulfilled wishes and desires and the ever imminent tension between tradition and modernity - which is so characteristic of today's Chinese females.

The key to understanding these paintings lies in the reflection of the inner life of the young women exhibited which is articulated by careful and sensitive colouring coupled with high virtuosity of form and brushing and a certain characteristic harmony and balance in the composition of the paintings. All of these are virtues that are equally attributable to He Hongbei's latest creations.

And yet, there are some significant new aspects in He Hongbei's"Dumping Garbage - Relax" creations. The first thing that catches our eye when looking at the women we are presented with is their amazing beauty. The faces are model-esque, a mixture between facades or masks (like shields that protect one from the outside world) and sensitive faces, somehow unreal in their perfection and yet, present. This is the style that our society wants women to be shaped in - "beauty" is an elevated concept and the pressure females are exposed to in order to live up to this ideal is significant.

As we are constantly taught by advertisements, becoming "beautiful" can best be achieved by shopping, since consuming top brands can make us at least feel beautiful. However, we all know the consequence of this approach might be a vicious cycle: "feel the pressure, consume, feel beautiful, get older, feel the pressure, consume, feel beautiful...," thus creating a certain emptiness of heart and mind. Taken to the extreme, life becomes a shallow bubble of illusions.

This is what He Hongbei outlines in her recent works, when portraying women with paper heads (and brains). Those paper brains are full of "nothing", a scathing image of beauty combined with the emptiness which our modern society of consumers can identify with. As in previous works, the strength of He Hongbei's art lies both in the concept of her paintings, the "messages" that they convey, and the technical realization of her work. "Dumping Garbage - Relax" is a fascinating visualization of innocence, reminding one of European Renaissance portraits of medieval nuns, and yet, the females we are presented with are very characteristic of modern China. Not often can we witness such a skilled and non-artificial union of styles and expressions.

So how can we escape emptiness in today's life? The concept sounds simple and at the same time radical - bend forward and let all the useless things that populate our mind fall out. "Relaxation" is the immediate consequence. But alas, emptying the mind and getting rid of things that promise but do not provide happiness is unfortunately not so easy to realize in practice. Garbage has the tendency to attract insects and some of them are aggressive tiny little things, like filthy devils that populate our nightmares. It is amazing how He Hongbei communicates in the facial expressions of her portrayed women both the relaxation, provided by dumping garbage, and the pain that is created by the insects that are emerging from the garbage like harbingers of fear (maybe at the notion that one is unable to escape the mind's trap after all.)

Clearly "Dumping Garbage - Relax" is of high social relevance and leads to intense reflection of our life, behavior and attitudes in the eye of the beholder. The paintings are a high quality demonstration of the creativity of Chinese artists and the relevance of visual art to our society.

Dirk Herrmann



"Mirror Garden" - He Hongbei Solo Exhibition, New Millennium Gallery, Beijing, China

Dumped Garbage  -Relax, Beijing, China

Painted Letters, Art Seasons, Beijing, China

Charlotte, Noel Gallery, North Carolina

Lawrence Wu Gallery, New York City, USA