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Zheng Jianhui is a young and upcoming artist from Fujian Province, China. He has recently graduated from the Chinese National Academy of Fine Arts and is currently working as an artist. His woodcut series "Village in the Past and Present" and "Happiness in My Village" reflects the challenges young people in China face in terms of reconciling the past with the present. This theme in his works with a youthful humor and innocence that appeals to one's own inner self.
Zheng Jianhui was born in 1983 in Putian city in Fujian Province. Even as a child he loved to draw. So naturally he chose to study art and in 2003 he began studying at the famous Chinese art academy, the Chinese National Academy of Fine Arts (CNAFA), under master painter and printmaker Zhang Minjie. The influence of Zhang Minjie can be clearly recognized in the early works of Zheng Jianhui - for instance the characters of flying and jumping people.
Zheng Jianhui finished his studies in 2007 and now lives in Hangzhou city as a professional artist. People of his generation face the challenge of reconciling the traditional past with the new quickly modernizing and economically expanding China.
Zheng Jianhui is a member of a younger generation of Chinese who have to reconcile the past under Mao and the cultural present with the China of today that is expanding economically very quickly, bringing not only wealth but changes in perspectives as well. This dynamic is reflected in Zheng Jianhui's series, "Village in the Past and Present." In his own words, the artist says:
"In this fast developping time, it is difficult for us to see this world with children's eyes. And maybe we have not the competence to judge this world because we are still so young. But we have the right to keep the impression that this period marked on us."
The world is quickly changing and going by, and it is difficult to just quickly adjust and accept. In the series, "Village in the Past and Present," one sees modern buildings, city landscapes in the backgrounds and modern technologies like buses or telephone booths. But the children in the series are dressed in traditional garb and they are riding bicyles, jumping, chasing each other, playing with rope - all old fashioned toys or traditional games. Their faces, however, are deliberately hidden and gives the picture a toneless feeling. The artist does this deliberately to express his concern with the speed at which China is growing and changing.
In "Happiness in My Village," an extension to the "Village in the Past and Present" series, we have the same faceless traditionally clad children in the village. But there are a few subtle differences. First, there are animals in these pictures, some of them even fantastic - beautiful cranes larger than the children who fly the children through the air.
In this extension, the children themselves are clearly flying, whereas in the other they are just jumping (albeit also to fantastic heights). According to the artist, Zheng Jianhui, the difference is that "their attitude with life is changed."
There is a sense of optimism and potential that one feels when one sees flying children. Even the children on the ground have powerful stances, as if they too are about to lift into the air. Or they are proudly holding a giant tea cup high in the air. Indeed, the world is changing quickly bringing new technology but also new possibilities and as these pictures show. And it has empowered these people.
But note, it is not modernity that the artist emphasizes, rather the change in attitude or perspective. He, as well as other members of his generation, are searching among the new possibilities offered to them for their place in the universe, symbolically the village, the people and the animals.
Author: Dieter Wanczura
(January 2007, updated August 2009)
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Works by emerging Chinese artists in BUYDIRECT.