Le Journal Interviews



Fu Lei is an artist who creates art with his soul, and he believes the way of expression in art should be decided by the artist’s sincerity rather than the market. His work confronts the economic times in a unique language of absurdity and morbid criticism. Currently based in China, Fu Lei generously joins us again for an interview on his creative process.

Your works show very strong references to classical techniques and styles, such as flesh painted like in renaissance paintings. How is this classical style significant in influencing the choice of themes in your work?
My use of classical techniques and styles stem from 2 reasons; one, my education in China which exposed me to a large variety of classical paintings (although mainly presented as printed material) . My travel to Europe thereafter deepened my impressions and established my preference for classical art. I even managed to visit museums to witness the original classical paintings in person during that trip. Two, in search of an individualistic personal style, I explored different techniques and styles. My work seeks to portray movement, elegance and the impact of powerful visuals within flexible dimensions, where all these aesthetic components coincide with the key elements of classical art. Eventually, I gravitated towards the classical style for these reasons.

The scenes are set in a very timeless context, like the azure blue sky and an empty room. How does the element of timelessness enhance your work?
I seek to pursue a specific yet ambiguous sense of conscious experience in my paintings and sketches. The use of abstract space and background help to enhance their underlying vibrancy. Contrasting the definite subject matter with ambiguity of the context, viewers are guided to look at the piece in certain intended ways.

Fu Lei | Working in his studio in the 798 Art Zone | Beijing, China

Your work presents the bodies of your human subjects in very unusual and twisted positions, but rarely reveals their faces. Why have you chosen to avoid revealing the face? Does this suggest that faces are not relevant in the composition?
I have been avoiding subjects’ faces since I started my pencil sketches in 2008. In a way, I wanted to place more emphasis on body gestures of these subjects and to create uniformity between the bodies and items surrounding it. I feel that the body gestures of humans is also a form of expression. In fact, this form of expression may possess a greater capacity for imagination. The portrayal of faces and thus facial expression, in my opinion, is too much of a directed and restricted way of viewing the work. I do not wish for my work to be interpreted hastily or to be stereotyped due to certain facial expressions. Therefore, I choose to concentrate on the body and combine it with its surroundings to enhance the overall theme and establish uniformity.

You have left your human subjects either naked or only barely clothed in socks and shoes. How is the lack of clothing connected to the theme of excess?
All objects in my work, such as an apple, an animal or a plant, are not clothed. I see humans in my work to be equal with these objects and choose not to dress them. The desire for clothes will reflect the universal desire by all objects involved, not just the human figures.

Additionally, there appears to be a hint of femininity in the use of high heels and pearls. How do these props (or costumes?) contribute to theme of lust and excess?
The emphasis placed on the recurring idea of “universal desire” suggests the theme of “lust”. “Lust” here does not solely refer to the relationship between genders. The use of high heels and pearls addresses capitalism, and more importantly, it conceals the sexual identity of the subjects. It is narrow-minded to assume the desires of men or women solely based on their gender. So by concealing their sexual identities will help me to portray these desires in a wider context.

Fu Lei | A Cryptic Luxury VI (A6), 2010 | Pencil on paper

You once explained that “the way of expression in art should be decided by the artist’s sincerity rather than the market”. How did you come to this conclusion? Were there significant experiences/ events that led you to criticize the economic driven society of today?
I have always felt that the positive attitudes of an artist can create quality art. Sincerity also plays an important role. This is a conclusion which I have arrived at through the study of art history. In today’s society, capitalism looms over our daily activities. We lose ourselves in the process of seeking ways to satisfy our unending desire for monetary interests. We lose the intrinsic value of “honesty” within us, and the ability to value things on a spiritual level. However, the art market is important in helping me maintain a conducive and sustainable working condition. Hence, I do not completely reject the market but choose reject the obsession for material wants which the market enables.

You mentioned that you simply follow your feelings and consciousness in the creative process. What are the challenges you have faced in this process where action is led by thinking?
It is a challenge to maintain uniformity between my consciousness and its delivery onto the art board, just like how some thoughts are difficult to verbalize into sentences. One may encounter problems when translating an emotion into a physical image. It takes a variety of skills and techniques to work together with the right chemistry. In a way, an artist should possess clear consciousness and adequate technical skills while creating a perfect piece.