Terracotta warriors wearing surgical masks, children offering Mao Zedong French fries and scantily clad models posing in front of historical artefacts. Mainland artist Rona Hu Rong's paintings are surreal yet accessible, exploring social and political issues including globalisation, commercialism and the mainland's ascension as a major world power. Her artistic expression combines fact with fiction, the past and the present, east and west. 'I have always been fascinated by history and culture. I have always wanted to express my vision of the contemporary world in relation to the past with my paintbrush,' says Hu, who released China Melody, a book featuring her oil paintings, last month. Her views on world affairs and her concerns over global warming and pollution are evident in her oils. A painting from the One World, One Dream series, for instance, depicts a union between an Asian girl wearing a western-style wedding gown and a Caucasian male in traditional Chinese garb. A closer look reveals the woman has been leading a liberated life influenced by western culture, while the man's lifestyle is steeped in tradition and Asian values. Hu says this is the result of globalisation: distinctions between cultures are being blurred. 'The marriage might not be a happy one because their expectations are unrealistic.' In another series, terracotta warriors, symbolising ancient China, are juxtaposed with a fashion model clutching her luxury handbag and mobile phone. Hu says the painting expresses her disappointment with modern society, which has become increasingly materialistic and devoid of values that matter. Hu was born in Beijing and grew up in Hunan province in the 1960s when the country was undergoing political and social upheaval. The experience made her conscious of, and sensitive towards, events happening around her. The painter worked and lived in the US for a decade before settling in Hong Kong 10 years ago. Using bright hues and tones, her paintings are attention-grabbing and full of wit and humour. 'I make sure my paintings have something for everyone and I hope people are able to find out the stories behind them,' says Hu, who started painting as a child. China Melody (Wen Wei Publishing Company, HK$188) combines a selection of her early works - mainly portraits and flowers - and some 20 paintings from the past decade, most of which have strong socio-political themes. Hu says she has always wanted to paint works that tell a story and is fascinated by the dramatic contrasts between past and present and east and west because of her upbringing on the mainland and experience abroad. She wants her work to be engaging and relevant. 'I keep abreast of current affairs. I even draw with the TV news on because that inspires me,' she says.