Article Hui Qin Peng in Gala Croisette

The following article by Anne Calais was published in the Gala Croisette.

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To understand the work of Hui Qin Peng, and love him, one must take his/her time. It is a work that cannot be tamed easily. A French author wrote: “One sees well only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye“, to believe that he had met the artist, in a parallel world.

Hui Qin Peng is not only a painter, but also a sculptor and a fashion designer. Three different disciplines with common themes: the brand of ancestors, food and, especially, something hidden, a mystery.

Qin Hui Peng was born in 1961 into a traditional and wealthy Chinese family. His maternal grandfather, a great landowner, has several concubines, one of whom will be entrusted with the education of the little child, and another with that of his elder brother. Hui Qin Peng is brought up far from his parents, both medical doctors in a leprosarium. This is very painful to him, especially since the relationship with the concubine is difficult. Very soon, he is animated by a spirit of revolt, especially in relation to the traditions of his country, which he eagerly wants to free himself from.

From the height of his youth, he awakens his creativity in all possible ways. Does the concubine does not offer him any toys? Whatever! He makes them himself. His brother builds objects of his hands? He watches his technique, watches him put the object in a box and … paints the box. Because for a beautiful object, you need a nice box.

At the age of twelve, Hui Qin Peng comes into conflict with the traditional world, which has become a real constraint. A first step is taken when, at fifteen, he joins the boarding school of fine arts, of Yang Zhou. He begins to blossom. But very soon, tradition starts hampering his creativity: calligraphy, traditional painting, all this has its limitations, from which it is very difficult to escape, especially since the political regime of the time severely filtered the contribution of other cultures.

While studying painting and sculpture, Hui Qin Peng becomes increasingly interested in fashion. From the Western world, he knows Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Cardin, two curious fashion designers from the East who very early on introduced collections inspired by China. He is therefore naturally enrolled with the Academy of Arts and Crafts in Nanjing, where he comes out as a graduate and wins the Young Fashion of China award in 1979, China’s first award dedicated to fashion. However, this first place is of little use to him. He begins to expose himself in museums and establishes a few contacts abroad, but he wants more and more. Even though China is beginning to open up to the world very slowly, Hui Qin Peng is more and more thirsty for freedom, he dreams of exposing everything that comes from his inspiration.

He has to wait until 1985 to participate in an international exhibition of art and fashion, during which he presents a fish in cloth, a theme that will be found back later in several of his works.

In 1989, the demonstrations in Tian’anmen Square give him, and thousands of others, a great breath of hope. But the demonstrations are struck down violentlyand for Hui Qin Peng, it is as if future was dying. He decides to leave.

For some time, he is the fashion designer highly appreciated by a Chinese company. Thanks to this, he is given the opportunity to take part in a trip organized to Europe. But a trip very different from the one we know in the West, because each participant is “protected” by three or four “bodyguards”.

The arrival in Amsterdam is like a last chance: we must flee. Hui Qin Peng escapes  his guards, jumps in a taxi that leads him to right to Brussels. What he wears is all he has. He knows that by doing so, he takes an enormous risk, not only for himself, but also for his family, who will pay for this betrayal with a very high price.

He only speaks Chinese. He had everything, he has nothing left.

And yet he finally found it, the thing that seemed to be taunting him for a long time. Freedom.

The Red Cross hosts him in a Dutch-speaking integration center and gets him political refugee status. For seven years, without being able to be aware of any news from his family or give them any information about himself, he accepts all possible jobs to provide in his needs, while continuing to create. This way he can discover other influences and develop his taste for contemporary art and fashion.

Let us take a moment to look at who influenced him.

The more an artist disrupts, the more he interests Hui Qin Peng. Like Marcel Duchamp, inventor of the ready-made, whose Fontaine questions the very notion of work of art. Likewise, he claims the influence of Joan Miro, whose 1937 self-portrait, for example, a masterpiece of “Mironian calligraphy”, gives at first sight in all its simplicity, but also attracts viewers who are Curious in a very tangled mess of half hidden lines. There is this desire to make the important less visible in the works of Hui Qin Peng, who hides his paintings behind mosquito nets.

Hui Qin Peng hardly shows himself. The biographical elements are only factual and do not say anything of what has marked the artist, which is revealed much more through his works. These are, in a sense, cabinets of curiosities, which contain objects apparently disparate, but united by an almost invisible link. For each work contains in itself a very small part of its creator, without the whole being able to one day give a complete picture, for man himself is in permanent search. He plays with material and color, opacity and transparency, reality and imagination, firmness and suppleness, straightness and curves. Faces appear, one can believe that these are actually paintings: Hui Qin Peng likes to present himself, which he missed so much when he was a little child. Food is very present, as Hui Qin Peng draws characters eating, or that he represents the food itself, fish for example, or lacquered duck, a traditional Chinese dish par excellence. The importance of food is such in China that people are not asked how they are doing, but whether they have eaten well. This custom undoubtedly influences the work of Hui Qin Peng, as much as the new tastes he discovers in the West.

For if he wanted to go beyond traditions, he did not deny them and find them for a detail, or more, but closely associated then with something unprecedented, a new idea, a futuristic material. Thus, Hui Qin Peng, a citizen of the world, claims his Chinese roots loudly, which he reinvents to create works of great contemporaneity.

His meeting with Rudolph Van Der Meiren is decisive. This is, for the one he will soon call Rudy, a first contact with the East, a true revelation. Conquered by the beauty of his paintings, Rudy wants to exhibit them. It will require great perseverance because it is not enough to go around the galleries to achieve it.

Around 1990 François Waters, the contemporary art gallery owner, exhibits some of his paintings.

Very soon, another gallery owner takes an interest in him and orders seventeen paintings. Hui Qin Peng is not rich, all his savings are in the framing fees. But the so-called gallery owner is in fact a swindler, who disappears the day after the vernissage, taking with him the seventeen paintings.

But Hui Qin Peng continues to fight and, in the late 1990s, he makes a new encounter. Mr. Leprêtre promotes him by exhibiting him in Brussels, gallery Athena, the oldest sales room in Belgium.

In 1996, he acquired Belgian nationality, which offers him additional freedom to travel abroad. He then exhibits at the Center of Contemporary Art of Lucca, in Italy, and sells several paintings.

In 2008, as the winner of the RTBF / Canvas Collection, he is exhibited at the Bozar, the Palace of Fine Arts of Brussels. Renée Pijpers, who runs gallery Albus Lux Contemporary in the Netherlands, discovers an installation by Hui Qin Peng that intrigues her: hessian bags with holes in a mosquito net suggesting mirrors. We must come very close to discern the images reflected by the mirrors: five portraits of ancestors, forming the heart of the work. The distracted viewer sees nothing but the bags, Hui Qin Peng only reveals himself to those who know to see beyond the surface of things.

Renée decides to exhibit the paintings and sculptures of Hui Qin Peng on several  occasions. She convinced him to start working with clothing on the day he wore a coat he had created himself. His first textile creations are exhibited on the ground floor of the studio of a photographer friend of Rudy, Moja.

Hui Qin Peng is now present in art galleries and fairs. In 2017, he presents his latest textile collection at the Cannes Film Festival.

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