Award-winning artist Chijia He is known for his portrayals of rural Chinese life. His works are held in public and private collections around the world.
A: You are best known for your portrayals of rural Chinese life. Why do you think it is important to capture and document tradition?
CH: Because of China’s fierce urbanisation, these traditions no longer exist. I hope to keep them and show them to our children so that they don’t forget the past. In today’s China, left-behind children and elder phenomenon are is more common, away from home young people go out to make a living, the old man lacks companionship, dissatisfaction with the society, one voice, such as warm in winter, the scene about the elder alone sitting on the roadside, was painted for 10 years.
A: Do you think that your works battle globalisation by capturing small, intimate moments?
CH: Especially in today’s China, globalisation and urbanisation have made our lives better than before any time, but they have also destroyed a lot of beautiful environments and traditions. I therefore seek to reproduce the past as a beautiful, forgotten home.
A: Why is identity important to you as an artist and why do you think it is something that we should preserve?
CH: As an artist, I am proud of it. Though the use of a brush, I render the world immortal. I am not opposed to urbanisation, but I hope that people pay more attention to the lost cultures and heritage. The ancients built a landscape full of wisdom and tradition, which have been passed down from generation to generation – treasures left to our descendants.
A: What is your favourite medium to work in and why?
CH: Over a 45-year career, I have focused on oil painting, using the texture of the canvas to best express a simple ideal. The pigment cascades over the blank space, adding a third dimension to the flat plan. History is an aftertaste to the composition.
A: How do you begin to plan a composition?
CH: I spend most of my time trying to improve the composition of a painting. I’m not bothered about the balance of the piece, rather, I want to guide the audience through different emotions. For example in Rain and cool around the bend the central point is clear.
A: How do you think that your works pay attention to light and colour?
CH: Andrew Wyeth, Jean-François Millet and Claude Monet had a great influence on my style, ethics and method. The pictures have a hazy quality, which I think helps to further accentuate the emotion that is being conveyed.
A: What has been your favourite exhibition to date?
CH: The 2016 Premio Arte Award group exhibition in Domitian’s Palace, Rome, of the combination of contributions from Europe and China, the ancient and the modern.
A: What do you have planned in terms of new projects / exhibitions this year?
CH: This July I have a solo exhibition in the Florence National Academy of Fine Arts Museum; it’s my largest show to date. I’m also participating in the Florence Biennale in October.
1. Chija He, rain and cool around the bend. Courtesy of the artist.