China Daily (USA) - - LIFE / CULTURE -

iong Qinghua is con­sid­ered a “weirdo” in his na­tive Changhe vil­lage, near the city ofXiantao in Cen­tral China’sHubei prov­ince.

The 40-year-old taught him­self oil paint­ing at 14 and two years later he dropped out of mid­dle school to paint while con­tin­u­ing to work on a farm.

Later, he took up odd jobs to sup­port his dream of be­com­ing a painter, in­clud­ing work­ing at hard­ware shops and de­liv­er­ing milk.

When his fel­low vil­lagers be­gan to mi­grate to cities for bet­ter jobs, he stayed be­hind to de­pict the dra­matic changes in the coun­try­side and in peo­ple’s mind­sets.

He did not sell any work un­til 2010 when pic­tures of his paint­ings went vi­ral.

Peo­ple were then amazed by the raw, un­so­phis­ti­cated style of his brush­strokes.

The re­al­ity of the coun­try­side, which he por­trayed, stirred nos­tal­gia for the peace­ful, idyl­lic ru­ral life that is dis­ap­pear­ing amid in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion and ur­ban­iza­tion.

Xiong’s sec­ond solo ex­hi­bi­tion, Im­mor­tal Vil­lage, ended on Fri­day at Bei­jing’s Chen Gallery, in the 798 art zone, where many of his paint­ings were sold.

Mean­while, a book on him ti­tled A Wild Potato has been pub­lished.

Re­act­ing to com­pli­ments like “Vin­cent van Gogh of China” be­cause of their sim­i­lar ap­proaches to ru­ral themes, and the fact their work was not rec­og­nized for a long time, Xiong says: “I can only laugh off the com­par­i­son. I feel a bit em­bar­rassed. Peo­ple do not know many (West­ern) painters and men­tion the few names they can re­mem­ber when show­ing praise.”

“Van Gogh died at 37 and sold only one paint­ing in his life­time while I have sold more than 50.

“In this re­spect, I think I’ve out­per­formed him,” he says, laugh­ing aloud.

Tra­di­tion­alNewYear paint­ings, or ni­an­hua, and pic­turestory books first ig­nited Xiong’s in­ter­est in art.

So, when he grew older, he used to cy­cle sev­eral hours to the nearby city to buy books on paint­ing and cat­a­logs. He browsed through ma­te­ri­als he could not af­ford at book stores un­til the clos­ing time.

Through this, he learned to sketch, work with wa­ter­col­ors and do tra­di­tional ink paint­ing.

But it was see­ing photos of Pablo Pi­casso’s cu­bist works that at­tracted him to oil paint­ing.

He also stud­ied the works

I can en­dure suf­fer­ing. I just can’t stand a life that is nei­ther cre­ative nor in­ter­est­ing. Even when I fail 1,000 times, I still have hope.”

Xiong Qinghua,


of Marc masters.

He says that study­ing great painters was his way of devel­op­ing his own style.

“From the be­gin­ning, I never painted to please any­one. Oth­er­wise, I would have been a com­mon rus­tic land­scape painter to­day.

“Peo­ple call me a farmer painter. But I see my­self as a sur­re­al­ist,” Xiong says.

In his paint­ings, imag­i­na­tion flour­ishes and min­gles with child­hood mem­o­ries to show half-real, half-mag­i­cal scenes of the vil­lage Xiong was born in.

The paint­ing Walk­ing Stilts draws on a game played in child­hood.

In it, he places boys not in a nat­u­ral set­ting but in a uni­verse, sur­rounded by plan­ets and man-made satel­lites. The un­ex­pected jux­ta­po­si­tion shows his hope of a brighter fu­ture for ru­ral chil­dren.

Another paint­ing Un­ruly Buf­falo re­calls his early ex­pe­ri­ences of trans­port­ing grain with his fa­ther, Xiong Guangyuan, on a cart.

In the paint­ing, Xiong high­lights the free­dom of ru­ral life with wit and hu­mor:

A re­bel­lious buf­falo breaks loose and “flies” into the sky, tak­ing two farm­ers up and above the clouds.

In his other works, Xiong shows con­cern for dy­ing folk tra­di­tions be­cause of young adults leav­ing their vil­lages and in­dus­trial pol­lu­tion dam­ag­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

Xiong’s brush­work also em­bod­ies sad­ness and lone­li­ness.

Speak­ing of his feel­ings, he tells of his child­hood friends who re­turn from the cities and are un­ac­cus­tomed to the peace of their vil­lage homes, which makes him feel sad.

De­spite his love for vil­lage life, Xiong also could not re­sist the lure of city life.

After get­ting mar­ried Cha­gall and other on he in Potato

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