While easel arts still remain the dominant media for most Chinese artists, Bu Hua expresses her inner thoughts through digital painting and experimental animation.
Her video exhibition AD 3012, now on display at Originality Square in 798 Art District, features an impressive scene in which the downfall of material civilization has left the universe caught in endless darkness. A girl’s Tai Chi performance lights the world by raising the sun.
“It’s how I feel about this blundering and arrogant world,” Bu says. “In spite of material richness, our spiritual inherence remains empty and dark. We have to return our hearts to a state of sincerity, awe and sunshine to fight it.”
Nurtured by an artistic family, Bu started to paint before she could read or write and won attention by designing a postage stamp when she was 10 years old. She held her first solo exhibition in Hong Kong only six years later.
But early success only brought her a nervous obsession with artistic performance. After graduating from Central Academy of Art and Design, Bu continued her studies in the Netherlands. When she returned to China in 1998, technology had advanced enough to give her a new medium for expression.
“After so many years of exploration, I found Adobe Flash was perfect for me. Flash allowed me to utilize color, structure and style in ways that traditional painting makes impossible. There was no limit on the complexity or layers of a picture,” Bu says.
Bu started to develop Flash animations in 2001. The boom in digital technology in the early 2000s helped her distinctive art to attract public attention.
Created in 2002, Cat is one of her best-known works. The five-minute animated film depicts a story about the vagrant life of a mother cat and kitten. The kitten’s world is full of love and happiness thanks to the protection and care of her hardworking mother, but she never grows up until death comes to take her mom. Faced with uncertainty and struggle, the kitten uses her courage to drag her loved one back from limbo.
In spite of the simple plot, viewers resonated with Cat’s wood-block style, narrative rhythm and sad soundtrack.
“Unlike most humorous Flash animations, Bu’s works are souring. She adds an imaginative wing to traditional painting,” Southern Weekly wrote in its review.
After the success of Cat, Bu continued to create a series of animated films based on a seemingly identical theme: the bitterness and confusion of growth. In A Seed’s Journey, created in 2004, Bu tells the story of a seed who endeavors to find who is she by following and simulating many species. The seed’s efforts end in misery, but she eventually discovers she’s a beautiful flower.
The seed’s story seems to be Bu’s autobiography as a little girl trying to find her true self. A self-portrait of Bu as a girl in a red scarf and school uniform has become a symbol of her more recent work. Unlike her former wood-block style, the girl always appears in an extremely delicate and imaginative scene full of thought-provoking elements.
“Humans are a product of their environment. We grow up in an environment full of rules and concerns, but it’s necessary to find our ‘real’ selves when we become adults,” Bu says. “The process of finding myself is illustrated in my work. In my subconscious, I expect myself think and behave freely like a girl – not to perform for the sake of others – and to achieve my own dreams.”
Apart from the style of pictures, the change in Bu’s mindset is also reflected in her art. It has become more focused on the relationship between individuals and their social environment than confusion and hesitation.
Savage Growth, one of her works from 2008, highlights uncertainty in the context of globalization. Bu uses the conflict between of a pigeon and a bird-like plane as a metaphor for cultural and economic invasion.
“Conventional wisdom is that mainstream art is finished by hand and unchanging. But that’s no longer true. The rapid development of digital technology has brought us into a new era and significantly changed the way we interpret the world, as well as art,” says Wang Boqiao, the founder of Digital Art in China.
“In the last decade, digital animation has broken away from pop culture to find a home in art communities. I hope more people can learn to love it and use it to express their ideas,” Bu says.
Through March 3
Zone B 798, Originality Square No. 2, Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang