Nov 26, 2009|
HK Magazine: The series “Prodigal Daughters” was inspired by the 1949 propaganda film “Daughters of China.” Can you tell us why it inspired you?
HL: The story that film tells is true; during the Japanese invasion in 1938, eight women stayed behind to help protect the Chinese troops as they retreated. They were wounded and at risk of being caught by the enemy, so they chose to kill themselves by walking into a river. The film technique back then was poor and the actresses in it were nothing like movie stars, but that’s why it felt so real, like a documentary. I knew it was propaganda when I watched it as a child, but I was still touched because it’s a real story, part of history.
HK: What’s your concept of history?
HL: The only truth about history is that we can never know the truth. History is not concrete; it’s never clear or definite because it’s always being processed and interpreted. That’s why I chose to paint my version of “Daughters of China” in a raw and blurred way because I wasn’t trying to recreate the moment. I’m merely offering my own translation of history while asking more questions.
HK: One of your trademarks is to have big circles on your paintings. What do they stand for?
HL: Circles have many meanings and that’s what I love about them. In one way they symbolize the ever-lasting loop of history—no beginning no end; in another way they look like period marks in Chinese language. Instead of a dot in English, Chinese people draw a circle to finish a sentence. And that’s the way I finish my paintings as well. Also, I like to add some abstract elements in my somewhat realistic paintings to give the audience more room for their imagination.
HK: What do you hope to achieve with your Hong Kong exhibition?
HL: It’s my first exhibition here so I don’t really know what to expect. But I like to believe that the core idea of my paintings, which are humanity and dignity, can transcend cultural boundaries and reach audiences anywhere in the world. At the end of “Daughters of Chine,” those women warriors didn’t ditch any wounded comrade on the battlefield. Instead, they carried each other until their death. I admire the collective heroism they showed, which is very rare in today’s society. And I painted them in hope for the return of humanism and heroism.