Traditional paintings by village artists showcased in key events

By Shan Jie in Juye Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/8 19:08:41

Artists from the Juye Painting and Calligraphy Institute work on the Blossom in Prosperity for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Qingdao Summit in East China's Shandong Province. Photo: Courtesy of Juye Painting and Calligraphy Institute

The peony is an eternal theme for artists from Juye. Now, traditional peony paintings from this agricultural county in East China's Shandong Province have entered the international stage, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Qingdao Summit and first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai.

Juye, a county with a population of 1.01 million in Heze city, has 15,000 artists and employees working in the fine art sector. 

"We hope to build a 'Chinese painting town' here to boost artistic creation," Cheng Junwei, head of the Juye Painting and Calligraphy Institute, told the Global Times.

Double showcase

The giant painting Blossom in Prosperity has become a must-see spot at the Qingdao International Convention Center.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders attending the 18th SCO Summit posed for a group photo on June 9, 2018 in front of the painting at the venue in Qingdao, a port city of Shandong.

The picture was then published on the front pages of many newspapers the next day. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a press conference with the painting as a background on June 10.

Blossom in Prosperity, featuring 218 blossomed peonies, was created by artists at the Juye Painting and Calligraphy Institute.

The artists employed traditional fine brushwork skills, carefully outlining the peonies and painting them with splendid colors, bringing out the gorgeous and noble nature of this famous flower.

The painting which is, 4.2 meters wide and 15.5 meters long, was created by 10 artists from the Juye institute in 77 days. 

The artists experienced major challenges during the creation process and revised the artwork nine times to meet the demands of the summit organizers. "We were not at the venue during the event. But when seeing our work on TV, we were so happy and honored," Kong Qingchen, a leading painter, told the Global Times.

A month after the Qingdao Summit, the institute received another order to create a painting for the upcoming first CIIE.

Splendid Spring, at 15 meters long and three meters in height, was completed in 79 days by eight artists.

The 130 blossomed peonies are painted in five colors - yellow, purple, pink, light green and jade white, representing 130 countries and regions attending the event from five continents.

This time, in front of the painting, the Chinese president met with representatives of foreign entrepreneurs attending the CIIE in Shanghai on November 5, 2018.

Home of peony

Peony is widely considered as China's national flower, and Heze is known as the home of the peony. As a result, peonies are often the subject of paintings by artists in Juye.

Kong said the artists felt great pressure due to the limited amount of time they had. 

"It was also very difficult to balance each artist's personal style. We had to make compromise," he said.

Hou Fuchang, another artist at the Juye institute, said people had doubts about their work during the preparation period for the events, but the Juye paintings finally stood out and became the only main background paintings for the events.

Currently, artists from the institute are creating another giant peony painting for a key ASEAN event held in China later this year.

Changing lives

In a large room of the Juye Painting and Calligraphy Institute, several painters were working in front of their huge desks. In the corner, Yu Haixia, 46, is carefully coloring peacock tail feathers with two brushes in her hand.

Yu is from a farming family in Taiping township, 20 minutes' drive from the institute. She only finished junior high school. Due to her passion for painting, she joined an art company in 1986 to learn painting.

She is satisfied with her 5,600 yuan ($800) salary she makes from painting. "My peers in the village are jealous of me," she told the Global Times.

Currently, the county has 13 certified members of the China Artists Association and 50 in the Shandong provincial association.

Artistic creation has changed the lives of many rural residents like Yu.

In addition to the professional Juye Painting and Calligraphy Institute, the county has four townships and 50 villages that specialize in Chinese paintings, and more than 30 grass-roots painting institutes.

The county sold 1.2 million paintings in 2017. The paintings are also popular overseas with buyers from 40 countries and regions including the US, France and Singapore.

Cheng, the head of Juye institute, said that the institute is seeking more financial and policy support so that they can build a more comprehensive chain, featuring art education, creation and trade.
Newspaper headline: Home of the Peony

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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