BLOG   ·  March 31, 2020

Hong Lei: Allegorical Meaning in Still Life Photography

Hong Lei, Memory of Pomegranate
Hong Lei, Memory of Pomegranate, 2005, archival pigment print. © Hong Lei, Courtesy of the artist.

Hong Lei critically examines Chinese culture and history in his conceptual photo-based works. Through post-processing effects and intricate staging, the artist imitates the aesthetic of classical paintings and old photographs while commenting on the nature of appearances.

See how thousands of years of pictorial traditions continue to influence the arts today. Step into Out of the Shadows: Contemporary Chinese Photography through January 2021 at MOPA. The show also includes work by artists Shi Guorui, Yang Fudong, Lang Jingshan and others.

In his series Speak, Memory, Hong utilizes classical elements like bamboo, pine, plum, and insects. Traditionally these natural subjects represent ideals such as integrity, endurance, and beauty. However, through careful manipulation, Hong challenges these allegorical meanings and calls attention to their artificial quality.

The artist’s images from afar are colorful and eye-catching. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that branches are broken and insects are lifeless. His series articulates the struggle to recreate ideals of the past.

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Check out more photography resources, including our Photo 101 video on Symbolism in Contemporary Chinese Photography.

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