Interview with Han Yuchen: Pursuing Dreams with a Pure Heart

November 27, 2022  19:58  |  Let’s talk

The exhibition of “Pursuing Dreams with a Pure Heart – Han Yuchen Oil on Canvas Collection”, not only shows Han Yuchen’s works during the different periods but also tells the story of him as a painter. The media was also very interested in Han Yuchen’s experience during the 20 years when he stopped painting. When asked by the media how he felt when he picked up the brush again after 20 years, Mr. Han passionately talked about his inseparable relationship with art.

Interview with Han Yuchen: Pursuing Dreams with a Pure Heart

Photography – courtesy of Han Yuchen Art Gallery ©

“I remember a philosopher said something like this, ‘once you fall in love with art, art becomes inseparable to you.’ It makes perfect sense. Why do human beings attribute art to the highest appeal? Because it plays a role which is irreplaceable by anything else in people’s bodies, minds and souls. I fell in love with painting in 1963 when I painted portraits of Lei Feng, a folk hero in the People’s Liberation Army, I was nine years old at the time. In 1968, my family had a financial crisis. At that time, I felt that without the support of art or any skills, I might not be able to survive. I don’t want to become a manual labourer who struggles to make ends meet.

That’s when my dream of becoming a painter became clear. People usually fall in love with art in two different ways. One, they just fall in love with it at the very beginning and have been in love ever since. The other, their interest in art gradually turned into a love for art as their understanding of art increased. I am both. I just mentioned I fell in love with art when I was nine, love at first sight, you may say. This is the first way. In terms of the second way, in 1972, I was lucky to take part in Handan Art Creation Class where teachers from the Central Academy of Fine Arts such as Li Hua and Su Gaoli gave us lectures for 3 months. Before teaching us, they were working in Ci County, Handan. Thanks to them, I learned formal sketch techniques and the steps of oil painting systematically. Guided by such basic principles, I painted long and hard for many years and created a large number of works. My destiny was changed owing to these efforts plus a little bit of talent. My dream of becoming a painter has gone from being unclear to being pretty clear. However, people familiar with Chinese history know that back when we were growing up, individuals had no choice. Nothing was for you to decide or control, what to do and where you go etc. In 1987, I had no choice but to become a general manager of an enterprise. As a general manager, I had the social responsibility of helping my employees put food on their tables. I had to “give up” art. In those years, I had to fill my art void with calligraphy and photography.

Although they are also forms of art, they express different things from paintings. They differ in magnitude. I made myself busy to lessen the pain of losing art. I was suffering from the pain. I didn’t like daily trivial operations at work. I didn’t like endless social networking. I hated drinking with partners or customers at the dinner table every day. But I had no choice but to bite the bullet and do these things. As my enterprise grew and its market share expanded, I was thinking about one question: how can I get back to the path of painting and continue to fulfil my dream of being a painter? If this dream didn’t come true, I would have a lifelong regret. I also thought of how I could leave some heritage for future generations or make some contributions to society. I found that what history remembers is not personal wealth, let alone political status, but literature and art, it is true no matter if you look at China, at other countries, at the past or the present. Of course, you can become a politician and make history through your own behaviours and thoughts.

But you may also end up being a sinner of history if your behaviours and thoughts do not change society for better or even worse, hinder the development of society. Literature and art are different. They always inspire people to become better and purer in mind and soul. Everyone in China knows poets Li Bai and Du Fu and great thinkers in Chinese history. How many of them know you, an average entrepreneur? It’s fair to say I am shooting for the stars but it’s possible if you really work on it. If I don’t try, if I just keep switching lanes, I will never be able to return to the path of art. Art has become the appeal of my soul and my future goal. This may sound selfish. I want to leave some heritage for future generations and myself.”