Chambers Fine Art announces the opening on January 8th, 2009 of Seasons: Hong Lei’s Recent Works. Born in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province in 1960, Hong Lei graduated from the Nanjing Academy of Art in 1987. Abandoning oil painting in the mid-1990s, he turned to photography as a medium for the exploration of a wide range of cultural issues. Among the images that first attracted international attention were Autumn in the Forbidden City (West Veranda), 1997 and Chinese Landscape (Zhuozheng Gardens), 1998, views of the supreme symbol of imperial power and a traditional Chinese garden suffused with ominous washes of red pigment.
As familiar with the great cultural achievements of the Song Dynasty as he was with the latest photographic techniques, Hong Lei continued his investigations by recreating the former in terms of the latter. In works such as After Song Dynasty Circle Series, 2000 and After Song Dynasty “Sakyamuni Coming out of the Mountains” by Liang Kai, 1998, the camera lens is unsparing in its recording of the troubling aspects of the subject matter, a dead bird in one of the images from the Circle Series and the disheveled, un-idealized figure of Sakyamuni.
After the success of his two exhibitions at Chambers Fine Art New York – Hong Lei’s Narrative, 2003 and Transmitting the Ancient, 2006 - Hong Lei makes his third appearance at Chambers Fine Art New York with a new series of paintings based on his own photographs of landscapes and gardens. In three large paintings executed in fabric pigment on silk, the dark tonality of the medium creates an aura of mystery as unexpected elements disturb the tranquility of the scene. In fifteen vertical paintings named after the traditional Chinese agricultural calendar which was followed by farmers for planting, harvesting and storing crops, Hong Lei superimposes white silk panels embroidered with symbolic plants and animals above dark toned images of gardens related to the larger paintings but lacking their air of menace.
Having largely abandoned painting for the greater part of his professional career, Hong Lei increasingly felt the desire to extend the range of his activities and work on a lager scale. Whilst the subject matter has not changed, his new works are striking evidence of his ability to find creative solutions to formal and technical problems. Always noted for their technical finesse, Hong Lei’s new works succeed in fusing separate aspects of his previous practices – painting, photography and embroidery – into a series of hauntingly hybrid works.