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Childrens' 'scrawls' shine with innocence and simplicity
( 2003-11-05 08:53) (China Daily)

Do you still remember your first artwork? An almost round sun painted blue or a little man made of mud?

Children from the Shenzhen Nanshan Kindergarten are fasinated by a painting class. [File photo]
Artistic creation, which has been something of the artists' privilege in the adult world, is such a joy in childhood.

In an exhibition entitled "Flying Hearts," more than 100 children from around the country and the world are showing their most original art works of free expressions, or "scrawls," before they have been trained to copy the adult definition of art.

The exhibition is currently taking place at the art museum of the China Millennium Monument in Beijing and runs until Sunday. It is being organized by the Commission for Children's Art under the Chinese Artists' Association.

"Childhood leaves so deep a mark in one's memory because it's an individual's first experience of life, and scrawls are an important component and expression of the experience," said Xie Lifang, a veteran researcher with the commission who is also the curator of the exhibition.

"It's depressing to see the dominant form that children's art education takes in China, which put the emphasis on copying adult behaviour, which is distorting children's emotions. As a teacher of art to children for 30 years, I have seen the dangerous phenomenon of many children losing their feelings for the pure, simple things," said Xie.

A papercut by students from School of the Jiangxi Province shows various figures.
The exhibition is showing what children can achieve if their natural desire for creation is encouraged in art education, said He Yunlan, director of the commission.

An interesting part of the exhibition is a series of works by Wang Qiang, 14, a Down's syndrome boy living in the Changsha Children's Welfare Home in Central China's Hunan Province.

Wang's intelligence level equals that of a four-year-old, and he throws everything he can see when he gets annoyed.

But he is excited and happy when he draws pictures. His works are blue and red dots and lines filling the paper, and one of them, which consists of crossed blue lines, is claimed by the Wang to depict the stairs in his welfare home.

"Wang is displaying his thoughts in his works. The scrawls are actually an accurate display of the child's life process. Children of a certain age have certain kinds of scrawls, and almost all four-year-olds paint like Wang," said Xie.

Children start to tell more as they get older. A series of portraits by a nine-year-old from a rural area of China of his family members amazingly resembled the self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh.

And a boy of a similar age living in Beijing is showing pictures of nudes, which are inaccurate but interesting in a child's imagination. It's the first realization of sex, said He.

Children of the Miao ethnic group in the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture of Hunan created some funny masks, with unusual eyes, exaggerated round noses and ethnic artistic features with mud for their daily games.

Also impressive are pictures of children in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region making scrawls on walls. Amazing imagination is displayed in the vivid depiction of birds, flowers and people.

And in the impoverished areas of Ankang in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, children have made prints portraying their daily lives, attracting viewers with their purity.

"In comparison with these children, we feel sorry for children in cities, where an art class of 40 in a children's palace often hand in similar works. Whenever there is a children's art exhibition, many children will draw cartoons in the typical style of Japanese cartoons," said Xie.

The "Flying Hearts" exhibition is part of a three-year project launched last year by the Commission for Children's Art. Art teachers are trained by the project, which aims to transform extra-curricular art education.

A new part of this project will start this year with the name "Dandelion Plan." Sponsored by the Ford Foundation, the plan is to include folk art in the art education in China's rural areas such as Xiangxi and Ankang.

"The project actually came from two albums of Chinese children's art works we saw in the library of a college in Berlin. Created by children during the 'cultural revolution' (1966-76), the works look much alike propaganda posters by adults except these are created by youngsters," said Xie.

"We are determined to do our bit as teachers to prevent this from happening to children again."

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