Farmer Paintings--Subjects and Techniques
The typical Chinese farmers" painting is hand-painted with gouache watercolors on paper. The selection that we saw was signed and titled, and had red artist"s seals.
The subjects are taken from the experience of the daily life in rural communities. They show trivial activities like coming home from a market or eating dinner, or they display events like a marriage or a spring festival procession. For Westerners not all the scenes that are depicted are immediately understandable without either having a deep knowledge of habits and social life in China, or getting a good description from someone. The painting Newly Married by Pan Xiaoling is such an example. What we considered at first to be an appalling scene in which the bridegroom threatens his bride with a knife pointing to her head, turned out to be the depiction of an old Chinese marriage tradition: The "knife" is in reality a special stick with which the bridegroom removes the veil of his newly married wife to "see her beautiful face for the first time".
The colors of Chinese farmers" paintings are rather brilliant and vibrant. The whole compositions look like typical naive art. But be careful with your judgment. Among the set of 40 paintings that we received, we saw many that in our view have carefully elaborated compositions that follow rules of the kind you would learn at an art academy. And indeed, most of today"s core artists underwent some professional art training.
Over the last two years we sold hundreds of modern Chinese prints - mostly woodblock prints - by leading Chinese professional artists. We cannot help, but in our view there are interrelations between the works of these professional artists and the works of folk art. For instance the painting series "Eight Strange Things of Shaanxi" reminds us of some print works from the Yunan Art School.
Some of the farmers" paintings use the keyline technique as you may know it from ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock prints. The whole design is drawn with strong black outlines, and then the areas are filled with colors. Many of the Chinese propaganda poster designs use the same technique. In the paintings by Cao Quantang, like for instance Good Harvest is in Sight, you can see this technique very well.
In some of Pan Xiaoling"s works like for instance A history of Red Earth, one can see the use of gradations as a more refined technique.