Young artist keeps her focus despite overnight stardom

By Huang Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/7 5:03:40 Last Updated: 2017/4/8 7:09:06

Wang Hua Photo: Huang Jingjing/GT

Wang Hua, a waitress-turned-painter, has always dreamed of getting her family out of poverty. But when she finally gained recognition and an offer of 200,000 yuan ($29,000) for one of her works, she rejected it.

"I'm still at the beginner stage. I must be calm, avoid being tempted by quick money and dedicate myself to painting," Wang told to the Global Times in a recent interview in Beijing.

Born into a poor rural family in Pucheng county, East China's Fujian Province, 36-year-old Wang revisited her childhood hobby seven years ago and has since become passionate about painting.

Her works, made up of only lines drawn with a roller ball pen, have led to widespread acclaim and even recognition from professional artists.

But she is far from being content. "It's just the beginning. I plan to spend 30 years in preparation to create a painting that I'm most satisfied with," Wang said.

A painting of Wang Hua

Chasing her dream

Wang's grandparents were both born into families of rich landlords and received a good education when they were young. After getting married, the couple returned to their hometown and built a primary school there.

But when China launched its land reform drive in the 1950s and the political campaigns in later years, the family gradually disintegrated. Wang said her father had 11 siblings, only four of whom survived; one died of a brain injury following public humiliation.

Wang's family was poor. According to her recollection, the clothes she wore during her childhood were all used rags that her mother brought home from donors or collected in urban areas.

She dreamed of improving her family's living conditions. She liked drawing and was good at it, but she did not do well academically, and dropped out after elementary education.

Her first job was a housemaid for a family in a nearby urban center, but she found herself back home just one month later. "They didn't like me as I couldn't do housework well," she recalled.

In 1995, she went to Fuzhou, capital city of Fujian, in search of her fortune. She worked as a hostess and waitress in restaurants for 10 years. Later, she moved to Guangzhou and Shenzhen. During that time, she also tried to learn English and computer skills, and invested in stocks, which resulted in her losing all her savings.

But she didn't give in. In 2010, she came to Shanghai, and a visit to an art gallery suddenly reignited her passion for art. She managed to get a job in the gallery and spent all her spare time painting.

"I can create abstract and figurative paintings, but I prefer abstract," she said. She started to become fascinated with paintings of lines.

"Our mindset and lives are limited and restrained. But when painting lines, I never set a frame or theme and try my best to free my imagination," she said. While her unique style of painting drew some praise, it was also met with some skepticism.

A painting of Wang Hua

Rise to fame

In late 2012, she came to Beijing and visited the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), a leading institution for modern art education in China.

Moved by the artistic atmosphere, she decided to stay and became a waitress at the campus canteen. When she applied for the job, she told the manager that she wanted only full board and lodging with no payment, but only if she could work  part-time as she wanted to paint the rest of the time. The manager agreed and offered her 1,000 yuan a month.

She spent 200 yuan renting a 10-square-meter room in a basement near the campus, and spent the next three years there. Her paintings and persistence drew the attention of some students. One even took her to the office of Yuan Yunsheng, a world-renowned artist and a professor at CAFA.

Yuan was also impressed with her paintings. "Very talented. This talent cannot be obtained through professional training," he commented.

Some students posted her story and pictures of her paintings on social media, attracting even wider attention. An art museum offered 150,000 yuan for one of her works.

In March 2015, Zhejiang TV's China Dream Show, a Chinese version of BBC's Tonight's the Night, invited her to the show. The show's host and "dream mentor" Zhou Libo offered 200,000 yuan for the 30-meter-long painting she had brought, but she rejected the offer.

"I know it's not contradictory to create art while accumulating wealth," she explained to the Global Times. "But right now, my works are still not quite mature. I want to focus on sharpening my skills and raise the value of my works on my own, bit by bit."

A painting of Wang Hua

Surprising results

She has said several times on her WeChat moments that she "had wanted to earn money to improve her family's circumstances but failed." But in reality, she has brought glory to the family name in another way. After the show and her story was widely reported, she became famous. The Pucheng publicity department tried to promote her as the county's pride.

When she took friends to tour her hometown, the local television station followed her and reported on it. The education bureau's official even hosted a banquet for them. 

Some neighbors and peers who disapproved of the "unpromising" girl kept their eyes peeled. Some even asked for paintings, which Wang declined.

Her story drew the attention of One Way Street Library bookstore managers, who offered her an artist-in-residence position at its branch office near CAFA in 2015. Wang finally agreed, and quit her job at the campus canteen.

Now living in an 80-square-meter apartment shared between six tenants, Wang is very satisfied with her situation. "The bookstore managers don't restrict my activities at all. I can paint at the bookstore freely," she said. The bookstore gives her about 3,000 yuan a month.

But she still has her worries. "My parents and friends don't support me. They believe that getting married, having children and living a happy and affluent life is the priority," she said. Her parents often complained that she failed to prosper from her fame.

The bookstore helps her by regularly shipping her works to exhibitions. And she no longer declines to sell her paintings. But, she donated most of her earnings to public cultural projects to give back to society.

"Although my financial situation is not the best, it will change gradually," she said confidently.

A work of Wang Hua Photo: Huang Jingjing/GT


Newspaper headline: Passion over money


Posted in: PROFILE,ART

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