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Miao Huixin

By Yang Feiyue | China Daily| Updated : Jul 20, 2021

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Miao Huixin's Nostalgia featuring a woman's hair bun is inspired by his grandmother. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Farmer-turned-artist Miao Huixin is urging children to document changes in the countryside through art.

Miao Huixin couldn't help but smile as he introduced his artworks to an audience in Xiuzhou district, Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, in June.

Miao, a 62-year-old former farmer, is excited to see many visitors are coming to his village to see his works. He has won many awards for his paintings of rural life. He was named one of 10"outstanding Asian artists" by Time magazine in 1998 and a national "excellent folk painter" at the 7th China Art Festival in Jiaxing in 2004. He has held solo exhibitions overseas such as in the United States and Japan.

"None of that would have been possible without farmers painting," Miao says.

Farmers painting took roots in rural China in the 1950s, with distinctive historical and social elements in the early days after New China was founded. In 1984, the then Ministry of Culture (now Ministry of Culture and Tourism) and the China Artists Association held the first national exhibition of farmers painting in Beijing, which encouraged the development of this kind of art. Rural artists with different styles emerged from all over the country.

Miao began painting in the early 1980s, when local authorities offered training to him and a few other farmers who had some painting experience.

"I started copying artworks at age 18, and people around me knew it," Miao says.

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Miao draws colorful patterns and animals in his Charm of Art. [Photo provided to China Daily]

It was after China's reform and opening-up had made its way to rural areas that Miao says he started to document life "before his eyes" in painting. Years of practice qualified him for training, where he got to visit Shanghai to see how some farmers paintings were done.

"I saw many people in their old age painting, which gave me confidence to pick up the art," he recalls.

The training was for the first national farmers painting competition and exposed Miao to such art and other folk skills as paper-cutting and embroidery. He was then asked to deliver a painting that showed one of the most moving scenes in his life.

"That was when I thought of my grandmother and a view of her back working in the fields," Miao says.

He created a painting, titled Nostalgia, in which a woman's bun takes up a big part of the canvas that also shows silkworms, chickens, cows and rice scattered. It won him the first prize at the Zhejiang provincial farmers painting competition in 1983.

"It was beyond my expectations," Miao says. "I was encouraged to take art up as a hobby from then on."

He farmed during the day and spent his nights painting.

"After finishing the farm work, I used to sit on the ridge of the field and paint. It was the happiest thing for me."

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