Farmer-painter preserves rural memories in her artworks

By ZHANG WENFANG | | Updated: 2023-05-11 11:36
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One of Zhuang Juhua's artworks depicting the villagers planting cotton. [Photo/for]

60-year-old Zhuang Juhua has lived a balanced life between a peach grower and a rural painter in Zhanfeng village of Yaozhuang town, East China's Zhejiang province.

"It's my daily routine to alternate between taking care of fruit trees and holding drawing pens, each continuing for several hours," said Zhuang.

"My son wants me to quit farming considering my old age, but I just couldn't give it up for my long habit as a farmer and the farmwork and everything about countryside could be inspiration for the painting," she added.

Zhuang has kept drawing for over 30 years and all her works are themed around rural landscapes and activities in her living surroundings, such as mowing reeds, harvesting lotus root, peach tree blossoms and collecting broad beans.

Typical farmer paintings are hand-painted with gouache watercolors on paper. Their vibrant colors, thick lines and exaggerated figurative patterns enable Chinese farmers to depict rural life and express their views.

Zhuang's works once were displayed at many culture exchange events. In 2014, one of her works depicting the villagers clearing water hyacinths on a boat was on display at an art exhibition of Chinese farmer paintings at the UN's headquarters in New York.

"One day, when I was washing cloths by the lake, I spotted a large patch of green water hyacinths with purple flowers. They were so many that the boat couldn't go through" Zhuang said when she shared her motive to draw such a scene. "The scene was really beautiful but we also had to clear it up to keep the lake clean."

"I often draw my experiences and imaginations of rural life in my paintings. It's my way to record the past rural memory and express my views and emotions," said Zhuang.

Zhuang has become a teacher as well as a master of the farmer painting over the years. In her village's painting workshop, where villagers are provided with free drawing tools, she also teaches the skill to her folks who are interested.

To date, the Yaozhuang town boasts over 100 farmer artists and their works have also brought them economic benefits. Besides prize money, they can also receive an income from companies who use their works to generate cultural and creative products.

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