“In their twenties, girls should like taking selfies and making their own mark,” says Hong Binbin.
The 24-year-old artist from Jinjiang recently graduated from the Royal College of Arts, in the United Kingdom, with a degree in painting. When her head’s not buried in her work, she likes to listen to her favorite pop stars and follow her favorite shows. And in the WeChat feed she specially unlocked for me, she posts endless gorgeous selfies. She’s really quite unlike other young artists.
In fact, the first time we chatted, all at once she upended my image of what artists are like. Who says their online presence has to be understated, serious, meaningful? According to Hong, her art aims to express a young person’s outlook, and her inspiration often comes from experience as a fangirl. “It’s tapping into the mainstream to discover new perspectives,” she laughs.
这个出生于晋江的艺术家，今年刚刚 24 岁，从英国皇家艺术学院绘画系毕业不久。除了埋头画画，她也追星追剧刷综艺，在特意为我 “解禁” 的朋友圈里，有无数美美的自拍，实在和其他青年艺术家不太一样。
那是我和她的第一次聊天，一下就颠覆掉常人眼里的艺术家刻板印象——谁说艺术家的朋友圈，一定要低调、沉稳、努力彰显内涵？她说，她的创作就是想要表现一种年轻人的态度，而且灵感经常来自一些所谓 “脑残” 的想法，这是 “浸在俗里发现新世界，哈哈。”
Hong moved from Jinjiang to Xiamen to study, and at age seventeen went abroad for college. As long as she can remember, every time she moves, someone always tries to fit her into a preconceived notion of some kind, assuming she’s a “country girl who can’t speak proper Chinese,” for example, or a “tacky foreign student decked out all in name brands.” At first, Hong fought against the prejudices constantly being heaped upon her. But shaking off these labels through art became her way to give people pause, make them think critically, and gain a more nuanced view of the world.
“In my paintings, I think the most valuable way to express my ideas is by superimposing layers of styles, giving the picture a sense of conflict, making the world inside the painting more solid and rounded, and expressing my shifting moods and continual thought about this world,” says Hong.
洪彬彬从晋江转学到厦门念书，17 岁的时候就出国留学了。她的记忆里，每一次换新环境，总会有人带着某种刻板印象去定义她，比如先验地假设她是 “普通话不标准的野孩子” 或 “全身名牌品味差的留学生”等等。对于这些不断加上身的片面解读的标签，洪彬彬开始是抵触的。但她甩开 “标签” 的方式，恰恰是将其应用在自己的作品里，去让人疑惑、去思考、去构建出更多维的视界。
Interpreting Hong’s works is like trying to make sense of a multidimensional world. Images from different cultures are seamlessly integrated into the same painting. Take Constantly, for example. She’s drawn a woman with the profile of a Greek goddess, sporting Japanese glitter makeup, hair buns like the cartoon character Nezha, Wonder Woman’s armor, and an oddly fitting sickle-shaped object. On the left is a unicorn, while in the center are elements from the myths of the Classic of Mountains and Seas alongside the boyish features of a pop star. Victorian illustrations of birds criss-cross the picture, some sketched in a coarse, primitive style, others portrayed with a meticulous realism.
“The images I use in my paintings are all ‘second-hand’ images deeply familiar to the public. By reinterpreting them, I want to play on the public’s aesthetic conventions, then turn those conventions on their head,” she says.
“我使用在画面中的影像都属于大众对他们固有印象很深的二手影像 (second-hand image), 通过对这些二手影像的重组和画面重构，我想去触碰观众传统的审美习惯，然后去再反转这个习惯。”
Many of Hong’s paintings feature a delicate, boyish figure: that’s Zhang Yixing, a Chinese member of the Korean boy band Exo. Hong has long been a superfan. She’s not shy about her devotion: when she first started listening to his music, she papered her studio in Zhang Yixing posters. “Every day I’d paint, and I’d always feel super happy and content,” she says. A painting titled Shake is dedicated to her idol. “For a while, it was popular for fans to record reaction videos for their idols, with their own responses to the song,” says Hong Binbin. “But my thought was, I’m an artist, so videos and screams aren’t enough. I should paint a picture to express myself.” That’s how this piece, named after a Zhang Yixing song, came about.
Yet after her obsession cooled down a bit, and she rethought her “relationship as a fan to her idol,” a different layer of interpretation emerged. Hong Binbin now defines celebrity worship as “China’s contemporary fast-food faith.”
而画里频频出现 “小鲜肉”，是从韩国男团 EXO 出道的艺人张艺兴的侧脸。洪彬彬是他的资深迷妹。对于这一点，她毫不避讳，刚开始追星的时候，洪彬彬在自己工作室贴满了张艺兴的海报，“每天画画，都觉得自己超级开心满足”。一副名为《Shake》的画就是致敬给偶像张艺兴的。“因为有一阵子流行粉丝录视频给偶像，内容是自己对他歌曲的反馈。” 洪彬彬说，“我就想说我可是个艺术家呀，不能只有视频和尖叫，我得做个作品表达（出来）吧。” 这首和张艺兴的歌曲同名的作品，就这样诞生了。
但她在稍微冷静下来后，重新思考 “自己作为一个粉丝和偶像的关系” 时，另一种层面上的解读出现了。洪彬彬定义偶像崇拜为：中国当代速食快餐信仰。
“I think certain aspects of celebrity worship are a lot like religion,” she says. “Religion has god saving the people, giving the people something to believe in. And in today’s celebrity culture, with such a large and finely segmented market in pop idols, the public or fans can pick someone to worship who’s in line with their tastes and values, and then put their faith in them.
When idols like that have become an object of faith, they seem as far away as heaven yet close enough to touch. For Hong, it calls to mind the term “little fairy,” which young women sometime use online to address each other. Her own Little Fairy, shown above, is a large figure that dominates the frame, wearing a cosmetic contact lens in one eye and looking down in scorn, as though telling everyone, times have changed.
那样当成信仰的偶像本尊，仿佛远在天边，又似乎触手可及。洪斌斌联想到现在网络上女生间互相称呼的代号“小仙女”，她笔下的 “小仙女” 正是那个左眼戴着怪异的美瞳、占据着大幅画面，仿佛睥睨一切的巨大仙女，也仿佛在提醒着大家：时代变了。
Narcissistic selfies, pop idols, the fan economy: Hong Binbin’s paintings are a sort of miniature of contemporary culture, crammed with nods to current trends. And because they’re so topical, viewers can’t help looking them over and over, vainly trying to understand, interpret, or even challenge them.
“I don’t want to envy other generations. I want to become the best generation, to prove that the niche can find mass appeal. If I can get a painting of mine preserved for fifty years, two hundred years, then I think viewers seeing it will know when it was painted,” says Hong. After all, we can say that art is the product of its time. Yet what isn’t the product of its time?