How a St. Pete artist from China uses a universal language of art

The owner of Grounded Gallery says that anyone can feel and understand art.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay area has a growing art community. Artists from all over the world showcase their talents here, using art – the universal language – and their creativity to connect and communicate with others.

“When I find these things, I may not understand it. But I will find the cause of these problems and then put them in my paintings,” said Hao Penghe, owner of Grounded Gallery.

Penghe moved to St. Petersburg in 2019 from his hometown of Liaoning in China. He attended Dalian Polytechnic University and graduated from the School of Art and Design in 2017.

“When I first came to the United States, I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t have anything,” Penhe said. “So I did everything to start from the ground up. So later I said, well, maybe I can use that word for the name of my studio and the name of the gallery. So I just called it ‘Grounded Gallery.'”

Penghe started Grounded Gallery almost there years ago. Located in The Factory St. Pete in South St. Petersburg — a creative destination for artists like Penghe to showcase their art to the public.

Most of the ideas and inspiration that Penghe has come from his life, focusing on the different people and situations around him and sketching them in his sketchbook.

“I’m a very, very sensitive person,” Penhe said. “So I’m always catching something, and when I catch something, I can write on my phone.”

Most of the paintings in the Grounded Gallery were originally small sketches. Going back to sketchbooks that date back to 2017, he can recall the emotions he felt on that particular day and will turn that memory into a painting on canvas.

Another inspiration he uses for his art is not necessarily a specific subject, but a quote his college roommate told him.

“Much, much pain brings a smile.”

Penghe says he would like to thank his friend Yang Gong Tan for saying this. Quotation is the main support of his art.

“I know this sentence is not art, but to me it is art,” Penhe said. “Art is like magic. It can make everyone different and make everyone use the same power to do something.”

Penhe had no intention of teaching art when he moved to the Bay Area. But his passion for art and helping the general public understand it and its message shifted to guiding people to express their own message. Part of having a gallery and studio was having space for him and his students.

It offers a wide range of sessions from public outdoor art parties, live model parties, private painting and even painting.

“Every student learns differently,” Penhe said. “Because every time I teach a student, I don’t just talk, I have to show them how to do it.”

Penghe says he has multiple sketchbooks with different variations of the same subject. Each student may have a question that will be different from another student. So, he will show them the technique from the beginning, which will result in sketching more than 100 times.

“I’m really proud of me and my students,” Penhe said.

Since moving to St. Petersburg, Penhe says he is happy and enjoys the art community because of how diverse the artists and art are here. The communication he has with each artist shows that the community just wants each artist to be better.

Because art is a universal language, he says that people can understand art because art is not just one answer.

“I want everyone to understand something, but that doesn’t mean you have to understand the same thing,” Penhe said. “You can find out here or you can find out here.”

He says that everyone can see and feel art.

Grounded Gallery is located at 2630 Fairfield Ave. S., at the factory in St. Pete. Follow his Instagram for updates on student work, events and more.

Editor’s note: Chinese and English translation by Calvin Chen and Hao Penghe.

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