An Interview with Fu Hong

By Ouyang, Yu | Antipodes, December 2006 | Go to article overview

An Interview with Fu Hong


Ouyang, Yu, Antipodes


Fu Hong is a well-known Chinese-Australian artist. He has had thirty-two exhibitions held in Australia since his first arrival in 1990 and is now based in Melbourne.

[This interview was conducted in Chinese in Melbourne, August 2005, and later translated and revised by Ouyang Yu]

Ouyang Yu: Fu Hong. Your surname is Fu but your given name is Hong (red). Why red? Anything to do with the time.?

Fu Hong: This is not my original name. In 1966 when the Cultural Revolution began, I became the target of the Revolution because my father was a capitalist and I was forced by the Red Guards to change my name to this (on the household register). At the end of the ten-year Cultural Revolution, many people changed their names back but I kept this "red" because the Chinese feng shui has it that if you want to be famous you only change your name once.

OY: When did you first come to Australia? Why Australia but not elsewhere?

FH: I came to Australia in October 1990. I had already become famous in China. In 1988, I had my first solo exhibition held in the National Art Museum of China. Even though many of my friends went to America, I remained unmoved. However, the Tiananmen Square Incident on June 4th changed my fate as I found there was no more artistic freedom in China; I myself had tasted what it was like in jail. Although I was past 44, I decided to have a walk-about whichever countries it might be as long as it was a democracy!

OY: What did you do for a living in China before you came to Australia?

FH: Before I came overseas I worked as arts editor and journalist at Central China Television, a position admired by many. As a matter of fact, we had no power in terms of editing and interviewing. Under strict censorship and the Party control, we had to say good words and tell lies. You'd be daydreaming if you wanted to be an artist in the building of the television station guarded and controlled by a battalion of guards! Later on, I went to the Association of Artists to manage Beijing Artists' Gallery, which was nationally influential and I felt happier.

OY: Did you experience any difficulties as an artist after you arrived in Australia? And what sort of difficulties if any?

FH: I felt totally relaxed after my arrival in Australia. All I wanted to do was to chase back my time wasted in China. I worked with all my might every day while learning English by myself. In the third year after my arrival, I held my first solo exhibition in Fremantle, Western Australia, selling all my 37 works. Since then, my artistic creations and the market have formed a good circle.

OY: Has there been any change that occurred as a result of your coming to Australia in your artistic thinking, creative methods and jiowr thoughts on life in general? What change if any?

FH: The first painting I did when I arrived in Australia showed an almost revolutionary change. The kind of soy sauce color in my paintings done in China suddenly became fresh and bright. I had had enough of repression in China in every respect, which was sharply contrasted with the freedom and sunshine I experienced in Australia. In the last fifteen years, I have held 30-odd solo exhibitions. In retrospect, when the anti-spiritual pollution campaign was launched in China in 1983, I was put in detention for 18 months by the police simply because I had painted the nude! There was no human rights to talk about and no artistic freedom of expression!

OY: I notice that you often openly talk about your views of Australian masters and world masters, such as Renoir and Van Gogh, Boyd and Noian. Can you state your views in more detail please?

FH: When I attended the arts school in my early days, we studied the textbook on arts by Su Li Ke Fu (Surikov), a Soviet Union master. Subsequently, I followed the style of the French impressionists and did that for 40 years. In 1996, a Renoir exhibition was held in Melbourne that had me looking at it for 5 days in a row. …

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