Novice artist paints countryside scenes, gains recognition with online support

Updated: 2016-07-18 09:44

By Xinhua in Fuzhou(China Daily)

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It has only been a year and a half since Wang Zhenfeng started painting, but now the villager from East China's Shandong province is about to host her own exhibition in Beijing.

Her work has been compared to that of Zhou Chunya, one of the most well-known living Chinese painters, but Wang would likely still be unknown if it hadn't been for all the online attention.

Netizens first began comparing Wang's paintings of peach blossoms with Zhou's work in March.

One key difference: Wang's paintings sell for 200 yuan ($30) each, while one by Zhou fetched a staggering five million yuan in 2013.

Before she became an online celebrity, Wang was just an ordinary villager in Ma'erqiu, Pingdu city. She toiled in a field of around 1.3 hectares and also worked in a small shoe factory.

Early last year, Wang's daughter, an art teacher, returned to the village and launched a campaign called "Everyone is an artist". She encouraged her mother to pick up a paintbrush, but Wang wasn't sure at first.

"How do you expect a farmer to become a painter," she said.

Novice artist paints countryside scenes, gains recognition with online support

Wang's curiosity was piqued, however, and after several weeks of training she finished her first ever painting of a bucket in her house. The piece eventually sold for 200 yuan online to an artist from Hebei province.

"I never thought paintings could help me make money," Wang said.

"In the past, I thought a person's life was all about getting married, having babies and raising children, which was quite tedious. Painting enlightened me."

Her fellow villagers would sometimes mock Wang for her new hobby, but she did not let it bother her. Her life slowly began to revolve around painting - she would even get up in the middle of the night if inspiration struck.

Her artwork centers around subjects that evoke the countryside: fields, dogs and farm machinery.

"There are so many lively subjects in rural China, and I have painted only a few," she said.

In March, she began painting the village's peach blossoms. Some villagers, warming to her work, posted pictures of the paintings online, which sparked the comparisons to Zhou Chunya. Wang said she does not know Zhou, nor has she followed the online discussions. But one thing is for sure: her life has changed for the better.

Her art has attracted many fans, with admirers from Shanghai and Beijing coming to purchase her depictions of rural life. Not all the attention is welcome, however.

"There are too many people coming to buy my paintings these days," Wang told the Fujian Daily News in an interview. "It's too much pressure, and I cannot even concentrate on painting right now."

In mid-April, Wang traveled to a town in Southeast China's Fujian province with the help of an official from her daughter's painting center. It helped her to concentrate on her painting, gaining new inspiration from the narrow alleyways, fish ponds, fields, mountains and streams.

To her delight, Wang's paintings have been praised by professionals in the art industry. She has even established a small studio of her own in Fujian. Many social media accounts have promoted her work free of charge, while local galleries have offered to display her art.

An exhibition of Wang's work, hosted by the artist, will be held in Beijing's 798 Art District in September.

(China Daily 07/18/2016 page7)