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Beichen sticks to its farmer painting roots

By Yang Cheng in Tianjin Source: China Daily Updated: 2021-09-14


The Road to a Moderately Prosperous Town, another work by He. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Until the pandemic, biennial competitions and exhibitions were regularly organized by the Beichen Culture Palace, attracting artists and fans from across the country.

The kind of effort is rarely seen any more in other national-level folk art towns, nominated by the Ministry of Culture in the 1980s, when the popularity of the genre was at its peak.

While folk art is fading elsewhere, its momentum in Beichen is rising, and awareness and appreciation of nongminhua has spread from farmers to primary school students, police, and community workers.

"The paintings are rooted in real life, a straightforward expression of the artists' hearty feelings, their outlook and perspectives, using skills that can be mastered without much difficulty," said He Xiaobao, associate researcher at the Beichen Culture Palace and a renowned farmer painting creator.

The art form became popular in the late 1950s and developed a solid foundation with grassroots farmers because it didn't require specialized abilities, and its use of striking colors was popular with rural communities.

"In addition, compared to traditional Chinese painting, nongminhua contains no strong connotations. Farmers who are fond of paper-cutting and embroidery can integrate those skills into their paintings, making it even more popular," He said.

The 36-year-old, who was previously a painter of traditional Chinese paintings, also said that in the 1980s, nongminhua works were frequently purchased by foreign embassies.

"Maybe because Beichen is near Beijing, many foreign diplomats purchased our paintings," he said.

To date, nongminhua exhibitions have been held in Sweden, Norway, the United States, South Korea and Italy.

More than 100 pieces are on display in museums abroad, and more than 10,000 pieces were sold to galleries or individuals outside China.

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