"Painting is my meditation," says Siyuan Ren. "It’s the time I channel the emotions of my day into my work, and reflect on my thoughts. "
Siyuan Ren's painting is deeply reflective of the different cultures she grew up in - China, Netherlands and Britain. Her passion lies in painting peonies – the national flower of China – reflecting her deep love and nostalgia for the country of her birth. A self-taught artist, she has won three prizes from 2018 and 2019 for work in the Rethink Your Mind Yellow Book, and will be exhibiting her paintings at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019.
Siyuan Ren studied Business Management and been practicing marketing and branding for 12 years. She runs two businesses in addition to her art practice. One is to promote art and culture, and one is a business and brand consultancy.
A DAY IN YOUR LIFE
What does a typical day as an artist look like for you?
Siyuan Ren, 'Floral Serenity'
It starts with daily planning in the early morning, then I carry on with whatever tasks are in my business schedule until dinner time. My painting time which is usually starts around 7pm and carries on past midnight.
What media do you usually work in?
Chinese ink and pigments on silk or rice paper. Or oil on canvas/board. Sometimes I mix all them together to explore new things.
How did you choose your current theme, if you have one?
Siyuan Ren, 'The Golden Age I'
Flowers are the constant subject of my art, and above all, my passion lies in painting peonies – the national flower of China – reflecting my deep love and nostalgia for the country of my birth.
What skills are essential to you?
Chinese calligraphy – it’s the foundation of Chinese art and all the brush stroke paintings
Siyuan Ren, 'Chilled Passion'
Among all the different styles of Chinese painting, I like gongbi the most – its fine and elegant strokes are perfect for portraying the delicate beauty of flowers. However, the extreme delicacy and meticulousness required in the gongbi technique also makes itself a test of patience and spiritual equilibrium – such qualities are now rare to see in fast-paced modern society.
I take joy from this ‘trial’ every time when I paint, and experience it as a self-meditation, as a quiet respite from a hectic modern life.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Siyuan Ren, 'Butterfly Lovers'
Painting is my meditation. It’s the time I channel the emotions of my day into my work, and reflect on my thoughts. Seeing my energy and emotions on paper or canvas is most rewarding.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
Lack of time.
How did you get to where you are now?
It’ll be a long story, but I just let my life go where it takes me.
As a child in Suzhou, China, I was immersed in the artistic soil of this historical city and its rich cultural heritage such as the Classical Gardens – designed to express the poetic aesthetics of nature.
Siyuan Ren, 'Melody of Tranquility'
When I moved to Amsterdam and Britain to study and live, I was exposed to the masterpieces from the diverse genres of Western paintings, and my artistic interests and knowledge were substantially deepened.
Having absorbed the spirits of both Chinese and Western culture, my paintings are a reflection of the three places of art and culture.
I learn and absorb from other great artists immerse and I like to absorb myself in all kinds of creativity.
I don't just paint in the Chinese style. I designed and made my floral costume for an evening event at last year's Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts where guests were encouraged to dress according to the theme of Summer Pleasure Garden.
What’s the proudest moment of your artistic career so far?
Siyuan Ren, 'The Golden Age II'
Being invited to exhibit at Chelsea Flower Show in 2019!
What advice would give your 22-year-old-self?
Keep pursuing what you really passionate about and never give up.
Siyuan Ren, 'Intoxicating Sheen'
Coffee or tea?
Tea. Although I like drinking both, tea for me has so much culture. The Chinese tea ceremony is a form of art and moment of Zen. I sometimes practice a tea ceremony before my Chinese painting in order to set myself in the mood.
Michelangelo or Picasso?
I like Monet
Mac or PC?
Mac because it’s lighter. I travel a lot
Morning or night?
Night for sure, because it’s the time I paint
Do you like to listen to music as you work?
Yes: classical, jazz or the rat pack
What are your favourite three artists?
Monet – I love his gardens, colours and lights – I cried when I stood in front his curved waterlily paintings in the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris.
Siyuan Ren, 'Sunset Rests'
Van Gogh – I didn’t understand his work until I studied his life when I lived in Amsterdam for three years.
The ‘happy’ hues in his work were what he was longing for, but the world didn’t understand him. As Don McClean says in his lyrics for Vincent (Starry Starry Night), “This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you”.
One of the top contemporary Chinese artists from my hometown Suzhou, Wu Guanzhong. To me, his work is truly a combination of the East and the West, which I aspire to.
Siyuan Ren, 'Conglomeration of Splendour'
Things to do on a Friday night?
Like every other day of the week - working and painting
Your favourite Holiday spot?
I am content in my little cottage garden in Leicester
What is the wisest piece of advice that you have been given?
Do what you do best.
Siyuan Ren, 'A Cluster of Flourish'