Leicester artist Siyuan Ren discusses her love of China’s national flower and how it led her to a magical brush with royalty back in 2019.
YOU may not have heard of Siyuan Ren. Not because her work’s not amazing. It is. Fresh, graceful, delicate and serene; much like the artist herself.
Siyuan is probably better known in the art world under a different name; ‘The Peony Girl’ – owing to her love of the beautiful fragrant blooms, which sit at the centre of most of her paintings.
As the traditional floral symbol of China, the Peony holds a very special place in Siyuan’s heart.
She moved from her home country in 2003, and has now lived in the UK for over half her life.
As a member of Leicester’s Society of Artists , she has made her name for herself in the art world by choosing to include Peonies in the majority of her work, as a homage to the country where she was born.
‘The Peony Girl’ is self taught, and uses her painting as a form of meditation – a soft and tranquil escape from her ‘other life’, as a busy marketing professional, she revealed.
Her work celebrates the beauty of Peony flowers, and she aims to create “an aura of English romance and Oriental elegance” in her work.
“Apart from being really beautiful, painting Peonies provides me with calm and tranquility. It’s my meditation and the only time when I’m really quiet,” she told Pukaar.
“It’s meditative because it keeps me calm and focused and is a test of my patience and spiritual equilibrium. However, the process of painting Peonies is also a constant struggle,” she added.
“I love all Peonies, but I’m particularly fascinated to paint semi-double, bomb and double Peonies because of their multiple complicated petal structures.
“It’s a challenge for me to explore the conglomerate of petals and I often find myself lost in them with my fine brushes.”
As well as providing her with a calm and blissful state of mind, Siyuan’s passion for painting Peonies also led to
a brush with royalty in 2019 – a close and very personal encounter with her Majesty the Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show.
She’d been invited to attend the prestigious event by ‘Binny Plants’, a specialist Peony grower up in Scotland, and when her Majesty stopped by their stand, she could hardly believe her eyes.
“I knew there was a chance that we might get to meet her, but I didn’t let myself believe it until she was right in front of me,” said Siyuan recalling the magical moment.
“I only spent a few minutes with her, but I felt that in that moment, the conversation stretched out for over half an hour!”
“It was surreal, like I was watching TV and it didn’t actually sink in until I saw it on the news, and also a photo of us captured together on The Royal Family’s official Instagram account!” she added.
On the day, Siyuan was honoured to present her Majesty with one of her specially painted silk hand fans.
“She said my work was lovely and her First Lady-in- Waiting told me afterwards that Her Majesty couldn’t stop smiling!” she revealed.
“It wasn’t just the highlight of my artistic career, but also one of the best moments of my life.”
Another highlight for Siyuan came earlier this year, when she was asked to paint a Tiger, live at Leicester’s John Lewis store to celebrate the start of the 2022 Chinese New Year; the ‘Year of the Tiger.’
Of course the majestic beast was the star of the painting, but Siyuan made sure that her beloved Peonies played a great supporting role in the finished piece, which now sits proudly in the Highcross store.
“The Peony girl cannot paint without Peonies!” she said. “I love them so much. They’re everything I aspire to. They remind me to aspire for beauty and to slow down sometimes and take a closer look at the beauty that’s all around.
“Life’s so busy these days, and sometimes you just need to stop and appreciate it.”
To find out more about Siyuan’s work, and her new brand of luxury accessories, visit: www.thepeonygirl.com
By Louise Steel