Jinshan's finest produce

Updated: 2016-01-30 10:00

By Zhang Kun in Shanghai(China Daily)

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Jinshan's finest produce

Peasant art is known for its vibrant colors and depiction of traditional Chinese culture and values.

A new art form

This art form is believed to have been popularized in the 1970s by Wu Tongzhang, an artist from Jinshan who once ran a school teaching people how to produce aesthetically pleasing folk art.

As food has always been an integral part of Chinese culture, people living in the Yangtze Delta region used to be known for decorating their kitchens with elaborate works of art. The wall behind the stove was typically where people would place their art works, and new home owners would casually request their fellow neighbors to help paint a motif on this space.

Such paintings would range from fighting scenes from ancient folklore to famous characters from Chinese fables and fairy tales. Floral patterns and other simple artistic compositions that have auspicious meanings are often painted on the lower parts of the wall in front of the stove.

Wu, a retired army officer, is said to have been so inspired by these simple works of folk art, including paper cutting and embroidery art, that he decided to gather a group of peasant artists to teach them how to paint on paper instead of walls.

"What he did was not really teaching, but more like guidance and inspiring," said Chen Wei, one of Wu's students who is now an advocate of peasant art as well as other cultural products of Jinshan district.

"There was this woman who only knew how to do embroidery and Wu just told her to use the pen as she would her needle and to treat the paper as a piece of silk," Chen added.

Chen has recently brought together about two dozen paintings from peasant artists, which will be showcased at an exhibition that's being held in celebration of the Lunar New Year. This exhibition, which is taking place at the Zhu Qizhan Art Museum in downtown Shanghai, will run from Jan 28 to the end of February.

He said that peasant art is so popular these days that outstanding artists from Jinshan and their works are often introduced to celebrities from home and abroad. Such paintings have also been popular with international collectors too, as Chen said they offer a completely different alternative to the art that people are normally familiar with.

"Peasant art mostly comprise bright colors and depict joyful atmospheres, so they are quite appropriate for the New Year," said Lu Xing, a spokesperson of the museum, who added that peasant paintings from Jinshan featuring the horoscope animal of the year have been a regular fixture at their Chinese New Year exhibitions every year since 2004.