Born 1987, Jining, Shandong

He Pengqi says his favourite childhood pastime was combing through rubbish heaps in search of “treasures”. He especially liked wood for its colour and grain, and at art school he started painting on panels from old furniture, using mineral paints he mixed himself. The works in his Who Am I series—Self-Portrait (2012) and Family Photograph (2013)—are part of what the artist calls a “journey of self-discovery”, in which he reflected on his early life and his relationships. The “elephant ears” were inspired by the lids of traditional Chinese jewel boxes; opened, they reveal the contents of his and his parents’ heads. In Land of Abundance (2011), He Pengqi imagines that heaven is a fusion of the contemporary world and the world of myth and legend. Far from perfect, it is filled with “chaos, confusion and filth”, and its inhabitants are as vain, unscrupulous and phony—and sometimes as idealistic—as people on earth.

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