Fallen leaves lined with life's ups and downs

Xu Qin
A creative painting and photography show by Shanghai photographer and artist He Zhaoya is under way at Natuzzi Italia, an Italian furniture boutique in Shanghai. 
Xu Qin
Fallen leaves lined with lifes ups and downs
Courtesy of Natuzzi Italia

Shanghai photographer and artist He Zhaoya at the opening of the exhibition "Born Again"

A creative painting and photography show by Shanghai photographer and artist He Zhaoya is under way at Natuzzi Italia, an Italian furniture boutique in Shanghai.

Centered around fallen leaves, “Born Again” blends art design and function to create harmonious living, perfectly in tune with the ambiance of the Italian furniture brand founded by Pasquale Natuzzi in 1959.

About 40 drawings and photos are on display, taking up two floors of showrooms that feature the brand’s designer sofas, chairs, tables, beds and more. Drawings, enlarged photos and prints adorn the walls. On a tea table, leaf patterns are made into thin fondant covers hanging over the black coffee. All the artworks add class and sophistication to the home-like setting without overwhelming the space.

At the showroom’s entrance sits He’s work desk. It’s difficult not to wonder how a simple set of colored pencils and oil sticks can open up a world of artistic potential.

Fallen leaves lined with lifes ups and downs
Xu Qin / SHINE

At the showroom’s entrance sits He Zhaoya’s work desk. 

“Taking a walk every day became the only exercise during the time when social distancing was required, and we had nowhere to go in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” said He, who is now in her late 60s. “As I set my eyes on fallen leaves, I found beauty in them. Every day I picked one up that looked different from the previous day, and I would give each one a name.”

With simple shades, delicate contours and unique color contrasts, He created realistic and multidimensional works, showing her love for each leaf and breathing new life into them.

“Our hands are absolutely essential, but we rarely take the time to consider how difficult things would be without them,” she said. “They have their own unique attributes, from the lines on our palms to the length of our fingers.”

A self-taught artist, He retired from the Shanghai Theater Academy in 2008. With her expertise in character design, she started her own jewelry business, selling most of her made-to-order products to women who, like her, always want something unique and different.

Last summer, He held a solo photography exhibit “Shanghai Women,” which showcased her extraordinary black-and-white portraiture creativity with works depicting her female friends in Shanghai.

This year, using leaves as the carrier, she set out to create something that embodies a female artist’s understanding of life, art and women.

“I hope people who come to see my work can discover their own latent talent in life,” said He. “It’s never too late to start anew. I used the fallen leaves to express my personal experience with life’s ups and downs. You know the old quote — When one door closes, another opens.”

Exhibition Info

Dates: Through September 6, 10am-7pm
Location: Natuzzi Italia boutique
Address: A107-207, 258 Wending Road


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