Feng Xianling 冯宪玲 & Ding Shangqian 丁尚千, 'Peasants love painting, take pleasure in pictures: Meeting the peasant painters of Pi county, Jiangsu province' (nongjia xihua huanle tu -fang nongmin minhuaxiang jiangsu pixian农家喜画欢乐图 -访农⺠民画乡江苏邳县).
当步入文化馆画展室时，我们被迎面一幅画吸引住了。画面上：一条宽广的林荫道，道上机车奔驰，车声震飞了树上的落鸟；道旁，禾苗青翠，几组男女社员正给禾苗追肥, 个个脸上流露出喜悦；稍远处，小电站的抽水机正在喷水，那清亮的泉水，宛如一缕银带；左方，桑园叶绿，鱼塘水碧；右边，鸡鹅欢叫，白羊似绵。那采桑人笑逐颜开，那喂鱼人喜气洋溢，那鸡场上，鹅群中，饲养人个个乐陶陶… …好一幅"农家欢乐图"呀！
这幅长卷，画的是八十年代的邳县农村。作者是白布公社61岁的农民谢振铎。谢振铎何以能画出这样好的画？他的画何以能这样吸引人？老人听了我们的提问，哈哈地笑了，他捋着胡子说道: "人乐笔才勤呀!" 他给我们讲述了自己作画的经历。
Pi county, Jiangsu province is the famous mural county of the nation. We came to this village to witness the peasant’s joy in making murals. When we entered the painting gallery of the Culture Gallery, we were welcomed by a painting that drew us in. On the painting was: a broad road shaded by trees, cars bounding along the road, the sound of the cars startling birds alighting upon the trees; on the side of the road, emerald seedlings, fertilized by teams of men and women workers, each one of them smiling with joy; further in the distance, an electrical pump spraying water, the refreshing water curving like a silver belt; to the left, the green leaves of a mulberry grove, the jade of the fishpond; to the right, chickens and geese clucking, white sheep like cotton. The people picking mulberries beam with smiles, those feeding the fish are full of joy, in the chicken coop, among the geese, the breeders are carefree […] a good 'happy peasant picture' indeed!
This painting shows the Pi county village of the eighties. The artist is the 61 year old Xie Zhenduo of White Cloth Commune. Why was Xie Zhenduo able to paint such a wonderful work? The old man listened to our questions, laughed, and stroked his beard, answering: 'When the people are happy, the brush is energetic!' Then he told us about his experience making painting.
Even in his youth he enjoyed painting, but then he did not have brush or paper, so he used bricks and chopsticks on walls, roads, and everywhere else to paint things like chickens, or cats, or dogs. After land reform, his family was apportioned a few mu of farmland, so the fall harvest was the first time that their rough house was piled with a thousand jin of grain. His heart was full of joy, of happiness, and he sold a little extra grain to buy paper and brush, painting with vigor. Over time, he became well-known among the four villages, such that one day a family might seek him out to paint a bed, another day another family mind find him to painting flowers. Within thee years, his soul became more tender the more he painted. Unfortunately, in the ten years of turmoil [during the Cultural Revolution], poverty, worries cast shadows over his life. At that time, he fell into a state, threw aside his palette, and stopped painting.
Now, the field’s harvests again fill the family’s account books. The seven member of Old Xie’s family live in a new six-room tiled house, and in this year just the wheat harvest totaled 4,000 jin. The family has three pigs, 47 rabbits, 8 minks, 28 chickens, and 19 ducks. He told us that in the autumn, his family will be able to harvest 3,000 jin of grains, 1,000 jin of peanuts, and 700 jin of soybeans; supplementary farming of cotton will add 3,000 yuan. Under these days, how could people not be full of joy and happiness?
The next morning, we went to a peasant home near Baji bus stop on Longhai Road. Under green grapes clustering upon trellis, a young husband and wife, Han Zhaomin and Dong Junhua, were preparing their new works. We discovered among them an interesting work titled Peasants Busy at the Night Market. The painting is of the busy season for farmers, as a team serving the commerce bureau arrives at the harvest fields under the rising moon and stars, welcomed by peasants who encircle them, selecting the things that they wish to buy, smiles across each face. The composition of this work is fresh, the colors strong, the twinkling of stars in the night sky, the shining of lights illuminating the harvest field, the entire painting is full of a joyful atmosphere. This is a work by Small Dong, employing the New Year’s picture style, and we were not the only ones to praise it after seeing the painting, even Small Han also complimented the work. Han Zhaomin returned to the village after serving in the People’s Liberation Army, and the two often paint together, discuss painting, understood each other even more, and eventually fell in love. Painting—became their wedding, painting—added to the color of their lives.
We then followed the Yi River, coming to the home of the woman artist in her sixties, Li Denghui. After waiting a bit, Li Denghui joyfully came with her son and daughter, who had come home from university for holiday, and had gone to the Yi River to sketch. Their courtyard suddenly became raucous as we looked through their sketches, all of the works depicting the Yi River, but their styles were different across generations. Li Denghui smiled, saying, 'Not good, I’m old now, and don’t paint as well as my children.' Certainly, in terms of artistic ability, son and daughter have 'surpassed the master.'
When Li Denghui was a girl, she liked painting, enjoyed papercuts and creating window decorations, cutting shoe decorations. All of her neighbors and aunts praised her clever skill. After marrying, her interest did not waver, and she continued to paint. Now, her son and elder daughter are all at college, her younger daughter joins in the work, so the family’s life is full of joy. She feels herself to be younger and younger, with more and more energy, her interest in painting even more intense. Li Denghui told us that after finishing this group of Scenes from Yi River, she will create a set of paintings titled Tomorrow’s Yi River together with her son and daughter.
Pi county is full of prosperity, and the peasants who pick up the brush continue to increase. After listening to an introduction by Cultural Gallery cadres, every year a thousand peasants in the county wield their brushes, male and female, young and old, using the brush to depict their lives, illustrating their ideals, representing their aspirations, extolling the great socialist nation and the new socialist village. 'When people are happy, the brush is vigorous, the peasants paint'—we hope that the Pi county peasant painters continue to thrive, to be beautiful!