When Chinese society was undergoing deep political turmoil in 1989, Yu Hong had just graduated from the Department of Oil Painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts and started to work as a young faculty member there. Although her talent had been recognized as early as in her freshman year, made obvious by her life-drawing of Michelangelo's David, she was still exploring a new distinctive pictorial language of her own art. The "'85 New Wave" seemed unattractive to her, while the "China/Avant-Garde" exhibition did not have much impact on her either. Contrary to the mainstream ideology within the avant-garde circles of defying authorities in the early 1990s, Yu Hong's works were mostly included in exhibitions organized by "official" institutions. In December 1988, her painting Silence was exhibited at the "Grand Exhibition of Nude Art" held at National Museum of Art. This exhibition, had it not been overshadowed by the "China/Avant-Garde" exhibition, would probably have been the most popular exhibition in the 1980s. Works exhibited included oil paintings of nudes by many prestigious painters, such as Zhan Jianjun, Lin Gang, Yang Feiyun. Yu Hong was the only female painter and probably the youngest artist invited to participate at the show.
After the Tiananmen Incident, the social and political upheavals plaguing China's art scene were replaced by a dead silence. As a result, many Chinese artists began to express disillusionment in an art that became more cynical and apathetic. Yu Hong also began to adopt a more minimalist style by abandoning the detailed and exquisite academic painting technique and treating her work with an alternate sense of isolation and simplicity. Works of the Portrait Series, which she started in the early 1990s, were such examples. Consisting of around ten paintings, this series were portraits of Yu Hong's friends who posed casually and were set against a flat colour background, as if they were floating in a universe that defies gravity. Portrait with Alternating Red and Green (Lot 871) was the most wellknown one among the series. In this work, colours were distilled to just red and green and details in clothing and figure are rendered merely via variation in hue and saturation. The contrast of the colours red and green and the minimalist rendition of background and figure succeeded in creating an astonishing visual effect among viewers. The Portrait Series participated in two important exhibitions of the early 1990s— "The World of Women Artists" in the Art Gallery at the Central Academy of Fine Arts and "New Generation Art Exhibition" at the National Museum of History and received praise from critics such as Shao Dazhen, Yi Ying and Yin Jinan, emboldening the artist to explore her own artistic voice.
The 1992 painting by Yu Hong on offer, The Man Playing Hula Hoop (Lot 872), signifies a certain change in Yu Hong's style. In works produced in the early 1990s, Yu Hong erased the sense of isolation in the Portrait Series and included instead sweet and sentimental moments of ordinary life, such as smiling faces of happy families, dating couples hugging fondling in park or a young man playing hula. Hula hoop was a sport extremely popular in the early 1990s. Chinese people, no matter young or old, men or women, were all crazy about it—perpetually playing on the street. While she continued to abbreviate her compositions, she began to turn her attention more toward daily scenes of ordinary people's lives. The Man Playing Hula Hoop and Alternate Red and Green Portrait marked the two themes between which Yu Hong's alternated upon her stylistic maturation. Inward inspection coincided with outward observation on her canvases, recording slices of her own life or depicting moments of seemingly ordinary scene of people's daily lives.
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