Ren Zhenyu’s work is concerned with the representation of icons, and how that representation makes them iconic. His current solo exhibition, You Are My Imagination, at the Art Futures Gallery in ArtOne, Wanchai, is filled with pop-art neo-impressionist paintings of seriously famous figures, including Mao Zedong, Andy Warhol, Barack Obama, Deng Xiaoping, Winston Churchill and Princess Diana.
The artist, originally from Tianjin, says that the exhibition takes faith as its theme, with each figure an iconic representation of faith in something, whether it be religious, political, romantic or philosophical. “Sometimes I am even baffled by why these very well known people have such a profound influence on mankind,” he says. The title, he adds, refers to the interdependence of artist and viewer. “When I paint, there’s a connection with the audience. The interpretation of the work really depends on the viewer.”
Ren’s work, created using palette knives rather than brushes, straddles genres: superficially Impressionist, it nonetheless features curiously photorealistic depictions of his subjects, deliberately disturbed by daubs of abstract colour blocking. “I’ve experimented with expressionist, abstract and figurative works,” he says. “My own distinctive way of painting combines all three of those schools.”
His work has also proved commercially successful, with a portrait of Lee Kuan Yew, for example, recently fetching S$500,000 (HK$2.84 million) in Singapore. That makes him very much the sort of artist of interest to Art Futures Group, with its laser-like focus on the investment potential of art works.
The company works with between 30 and 40 mainland Chinese artists. Specialising in mid-career artists with plenty of growth potential, it buys direct from them based on a basket of 15 indicators, including public profile and output; crucially, the company only works with artists who have a long and proven record of auction sales. Its expert consultants can tailor purchases to clients’ individual requirements, making for a unique form of investment, one that can beautify a home while also generating a steep return. Art Futures Group clients who buy purely for investment and don’t want to put works on their walls can also opt to put them in secure, climate controlled storage, or to lease them out through the company and make a guaranteed return of 6 percent.
“I’m very happy working with Art Futures Group in providing an excellent platform for Chinese contemporary artists,” says Ren.