• When rooster makes a call

Ap­ple gets Chi­nese artists to present tra­di­tional themes in a mod­ern way for Spring Fes­ti­val

China Daily European Weekly - - Life - By DENG ZHANGYU dengzhangyu@chi­nadaily.com.cn

As Spring Fes­ti­val ap­proaches each year, Chi­nese house­holds fol­low the cus­tom of hang­ing paint­ings — usu­ally col­ored wood­block prints — on their doors and walls to wel­come the new year.

How­ever, the tra­di­tion has changed a lit­tle in the dig­i­tal age.

One such painting now ap­pears on gad­gets’ screens, with the swords of door gods re­placed by karaoke mi­cro­phones. One of the door gods holds a cam­era and a bird’s cage, and be­hind him are sky­scrapers and fancy cars.

The peace-themed Chi­nese Lu­nar New Year painting, cre­ated by Bei­jing-based artist Ye Hongxing, was first de­signed on a com­puter and then turned into a phys­i­cal work of art — a mo­saic of tens of thou­sands of stick­ers.

“I com­bined mod­ern and tra­di­tional el­e­ments to make it in­ter­est­ing. They can be down­loaded as wall­pa­pers on phones and com­put­ers,” says Ye.

She is one of the five artists in­vited by US tech gi­ant Ap­ple Inc to make paint­ings fo­cus­ing on reunion, for­tune, peace and har­vest — tra­di­tional themes of Chi­nese wood­block prints for Spring Fes­ti­val paint­ings that date back hun­dreds of years.

Un­like Ye, whose paint­ings have both elec­tronic and printed ver­sions, the other four artists’ works are only on­line. But pic­tures by all five artists are shown on screens at sub­way stops and on sky­scrapers, and count­less phone screens to cel­e­brate the Year of the Rooster.

“New Year pic­tures are used to con­vey peo­ple’s good wishes for the com­ing year. They of­ten fea­ture fish to herald good for­tune and door gods to sig­nal peace and safety,” says Ye.

The 45-year-old was born in the Guangxi Zhuang au­ton­o­mous re­gion. Her fam­ily would hang pic­tures of door gods and New Year paint­ings on the walls when she was a child. Apart from those herald­ing good for­tune, some tra­di­tional works were cre­ated based on sto­ries from Pek­ing Opera, lit­er­a­ture and folk leg­ends.

“You can learn about peo­ple’s lives in dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods of time through th­ese pic­tures, such as how they dressed or what they ate. The pic­tures are dif­fer­ent in dif­fer­ent places in China,” Ye says.

Ye’s work con­tains mo­tifs that make the door gods look mod­ern. The karaoke mi­cro­phone, cam­era, bird cage, high build­ings, wheels, cars and a fly­ing as­tro­naut all re­flect dif­fer­ent as­pects of our so­ci­ety to­day, she ex­plains.

Parts of the mas­sive im­age are made up of stick­ers that are small in size and fea­ture pop­u­lar sym­bols like Hello Kitty and An­gry Birds.

“It’s the first time for me to cre­ate a Spring Fes­ti­val pic­ture in such a mod­ern way. I thought they were only made by crafts­men, who teach ap­pren­tices,” Ye says.

Il­lus­tra­tor Eszter Chen also says it’s a new way to rep­re­sent the tra­di­tional genre in the dig­i­tal era and in a style typ­i­cal of a younger generation.

The 28-year-old, Taipei-based il­lus­tra­tor cre­ated an elec­tronic ver­sion fo­cus­ing on the im­por­tant din­ner on the eve of the Chi­nese New Year.

In Chen’s pic­ture, friends gath­ered around din­ing tables have their phones or hand­held de­vices with them. They ei­ther send mes­sages bear­ing good wishes while eat­ing to­gether or have a video chat with those who are away. Even a rooster has a phone in hand — well, in wing.

“It’s com­mon to see such kinds of fam­ily gath­er­ings. It’s in­ter­est­ing,” says Chen.

She re­calls that, dur­ing her child­hood, Spring Fes­ti­val pic­tures were printed on cal­en­dars, fea­tur­ing chubby chil­dren or var­i­ous gods. Af­ter the fam­ily din­ner, peo­ple set off fire­works and vis­ited rel­a­tives.

Chen moved to Cal­i­for­nia af­ter pri­mary school. It was im­pos­si­ble to have many rel­a­tives at such din­ners there.

She says the peo­ple in her pic­ture are friends and neigh­bors from a com­mu­nity, who gather to cel­e­brate the oc­ca­sion in the era of glob­al­iza­tion. Dishes on their tables are from dif­fer­ent re­gions of China and in­clude hot­pot, seafood, dumplings and tea.

“Times are chang­ing, and tech­nol­ogy is chang­ing, too. But New Year pic­tures will al­ways be our way to cel­e­brate the fes­ti­val — just through dif­fer­ent me­dia,” says Chen.

Xie Wei, a mar­ket­ing man­ager from Ap­ple Inc, says that at a time when peo­ple are com­plain­ing about the dis­ap­pear­ing tra­di­tions sur­round­ing Spring Fes­ti­val, tech­nol­ogy is help­ing to re­vive them in a way that ap­peals to youth.

“You can learn about peo­ple’s lives in dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods of time through th­ese pic­tures, such as how they dressed or what they ate. The pic­tures are dif­fer­ent in dif­fer­ent places in China.” YE HONGXING Chi­nese artist


ABOVE AND BOT­TOM: Chi­nese New Year pic­tures take on a mod­ern look in the cre­ations by young Chi­nese artists.

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