There’s No Duckin’ These Chickens in this Form of Art

Above: Ma Yali  – “Brigade Chicken Farm” (1973).

Chinese “Peasant Painting” or “Folk Painting” reflects on the farming lives of the vast countryside of China during the 1960s.  Its style represents both old and new in its art.

  • Old – because it originates from the thousand year traditions of embroidering, batik, paper cutting and wall painting.
  • New – because as a genre of painting, it has emerged with the help of trained artists.

Above: Li Zhenhua“The Brigade’s Ducks (1973).

Peasant art is totally free of staleness and has a vigorous artistic impact that is strong, sincere and bold.  Its exaggerated modeling, distortion and surrealistic style can give a feeling of truthfulness and naivete.  The vivid colours and composition are very imaginative and cheerfully decorative which showcases the simplicity of people who live away from the complexity of ‘big city’ life.

  • In the second half of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in early 1970s, the works of amateur folk/peasant artists were promoted as representatives of the innate creative genius of the masses, and as living proof that everyone could and should practice art.
  • The most well-known of these artists from were from Shanghai, Yangquan and Lüda, who mounted a successful exhibition in Beijing in 1974;  along with the peasant painters from Huxian Shaanxi Province.
  • The latter even became internationally acclaimed for their naive, colourful style in painting when they were given the opportunity to exhibit their work in Paris in 1975.
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