2014 marks the Year of the Horse in the Chinese calendar and preparations for the Sydney Chinese New Year festival are well underway.
We’d like to introduce Hu Ming, a renowned Chinese-Australian artist, who has created a special artwork for the festival. Schooled when the Cultural Revolution was at its peak, Ming has a fascinating life story that took her from soldier in Mao’s army to celebrated artist, distinguished depicting both sensuous and powerful aspects of the female form.
When Hu Ming’s parents told her “You have the hands of an eye surgeon we hope you will be a doctor”, she had other ideas. All Ming wanted to do was paint. In high school she was permitted to draw Chairman Mao’s portrait, so she divided her time between this and memorising the red book. Growing bored, at the tender age of 15, Ming begged her parents to let her join the army.
Ming served in the Chinese army for twenty years. She held various postings – including broadcaster, librarian and a lone projectionist. At a time when thought, art and literature were prescribed, Ming did not let go of imagination. She found refuge in dreams as she frequently fell asleep at her post (she describes herself as a “bad soldier”) and spending long days at the library, discovered the classics. Consequently, it was a book that changed her life forever – Michaelangelo’s life drawing book of the human anatomy.
In 1982 her whole class spent six months copying the famous 1500-year-old cave paintings of the Buddhists’ grotto temples. The work was done on rice paper with only a simple battery torch to see inside the caves. The paper had to be prepared with nine coats of peach tree glue. This was a style of art she came to love. “It’s like tai chi,” she said. “Very quiet. Very nice.”
Upon graduating with one of the highest accolades, Ming returned to the army. Now, she was head of the Art and Culture Club and worked on movies. Finding her heart was no longer in it, she moved to New Zealand and finally, Australia.
Ming works with rich, lush oil and is a pioneer in combining modern and classical styles. She highlights women’s power in all its forms – courage, independence, sexuality. For Hu Ming, Chinese New Year is a time of great joy and happiness – and she wanted to convey this in her work for our festival. “It’s colourful,” she said. “And this gives people a New Year feeling – like Christmas”. For her personally, this is a time to celebrate the new – “new feelings, new ideas, new plans for creativity and, of course, a new exhibition!”
For more on the Sydney Chinese New Year festival event program, visit www.sydneychinesenewyear.com