June 20, 2022
BEIJING – The difference is that which passes between night and day. A cleaning lady by day, an artist by night. With rags hanging on the wall and rags in the corner, as the evening approaches, 56-year-old Wang Liuyun concentrates on her canvas in a small storage room in an office building in Beijing where, during the day, she works as a cleaner. .
From 7:00 to 19:00, Wang sweeps and mops floors, empties garbage cans, sanitizes toilets, and cleans building windows. After work, the 3-square-meter storage room where he keeps his work equipment becomes his studio, where his oil paintings portray life in the open air. Scenes of trees, rolling mountains, lush fields and sparkling lakes are evoked in the cramped surroundings that smell not of pine needles or forest, but of disinfectant and cleaning products. A piece of cardboard on the floor is her mattress.
Ever since I was a little girl, I enjoyed observing nature, how clouds form, how grass grows and why water has no color. Perhaps these inspired my painting.
Wang Liuyun, 56, artist
“Painting feeds my soul, while cleaning work helps make ends meet,” says Wang.
Before starting her painting journey, Wang has no hesitation in using the word “miserable” to describe her life before age 50, dropping out of school at 17 due to economic pressure, trapped in an unhappy marriage of seven. years and losing it. first husband in a car accident. She never dared to think that something lucky was going to happen to her or that life could, come to think of it, be pleasant.
When her daughter graduated from college and her rural home was finally decorated in 2017, then 51-year-old Wang decided to live for herself, and painting became her way of escaping what seemed like a doomed fate.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I loved observing nature, how clouds form, how grass grows and why water has no color. Perhaps these inspired my painting, “says the artist, whose name Liuyun itself provides a natural image of willows and clouds.
Wang became famous overnight and made national headlines after her story was recorded in an episode of the documentary series Waiting for You, released online in January, and which records the stories of 100 women in all. the country over the course of a year.
On the social media platform Sina Weibo, it was viewed more than 7.5 million times. A user named Qijiu comments: “I am touched by his passion for life and art. Even at the age of 50, he has the courage to start over and pursue his passions “.
Many people have contacted her to purchase her works. Their prices range from hundreds to thousands of yuan.
“It is beyond my expectations that I, a ‘nobody’, can get so much attention in the media and on the Internet,” says Wang, smiling.
In her own words, she spent 50 years in the countryside as a farmer and, at 51, decided to make a difference.
By tapping into a dream
In 2016, when he learned that there was a free painting class in Shuangxi Ancient City, East China’s Fujian Province, Wang, the then 50-year-old farmer and housewife in Taizhou, China’s Zhejiang Province. Oriental, she knew it was time to start her life over. Though twice married, her happiness seemed elusive.
“The timing was right, because my daughter graduated from college and my rural house was decorated,” she says, adding that at first she wanted to use painting as a way to release her emotions.
Wang left his home in Shang’ao Village, Zhejiang Province, in March 2017, with only a few hundred yuan.
on his behalf, and began a week-long study in a charity program initiated by artist Lin Zhenglu in Fujian.
“By providing free paint, brushes and canvas, teacher Wang Yafei told me to paint whatever I wanted. On the fourth day I finished my first photo, depicting a spring scene in the city, with rapeseed flowers blooming in the fields, ”says Wang Liuyun. He completed two more paintings on the fifth and sixth day.
“Although Lin kept saying I had a talent for landscape painting, I didn’t believe it,” he recalls.
Wang Liuyun left the studio with just enough money to go home. Shortly after he left, the three paintings of him were sold, each for 150 yuan ($ 22.32).
“It increased my confidence and I started taking painting seriously. Not only does it have fun, it also makes money, “she says.
Borrowing 5,000 yuan from the local rural credit union, Wang Liuyun returned to Lin’s office and decided to stay longer. By renting a hotel room for 600 yuan a month, she could get a canvas board every day and two brushes and three pigments every week from the studio.
“I enjoyed every day in Shuangxi. I continued to draw and paint without feeling tired ”.
In three months he finished more than 50 paintings. To promote her work, Lin helped her open a small exhibition.
However, the happy days didn’t last long. Three months later, her husband borrowed money to go to Shuangxi and bring her home.
“There was gossip about me in the village. He was afraid that I would divorce him, “she explains.
Within a week of her return, Lin contacted her saying that all of her works had been sold and that she had earned a total sum of 20,000 yuan. Many people contacted her about her paintings. She bought a smartphone to help her sell her work.
In 2018, she went to spend a year immersing herself in appreciating works of art in Dafen Oil Painting Village in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. She then became an art teacher at a rural primary school in Henan province in 2019. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak that led to the school being closed, she had to quit that job and headed to Beijing to look for work in early 2020.
Another painting, Shuangxi Ancient City Suburbs, features a bird’s eye view of the city’s well-preserved ancient buildings before the rain. (PHOTO SUPPLIED IN CHINA DAILY)
Born into a poor family in the rural province of Hunan in 1966, Wang Liuyun is the fifth child. He has three sisters and one brother. Her father was born with a deformed spine, for which she was mocked and mocked mercilessly at school.
Although good at studying, she dropped out of high school at the age of 17, because her family could not afford the expenses. She had to do various jobs to feed herself.
When she was 20, her parents died, which meant she had to find someone to marry to make life easier. She met her first husband, who died in a car accident when her daughter was 7 years old.
Four years after her husband’s death, she and her daughter moved to a coastal village in Zhejiang, where she met her second husband, “which gives me the spiritual freedom I desire,” she says.
For Wang Liuyun, who says she tends to feel alone, her “soul mate” was books. While she was in Zhejiang, whenever she had time, she would go to the local library and read voraciously, including the poems of the Tang dynasty (618-907) by Li Bai and Du Fu, as well as the classics of Russian literature. When she started learning to paint, she was fascinated by itLiving in the Fuchun Mountains
a famous landscape painting created by Huang Gongwang during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368).
He even went to the Fuchun Mountains in Zhejiang to appreciate the scenery, but found that the mountains were not as gorgeous as depicted in the painting.
“It was the moment I realized that what Huang had painted was a scene in his dreams,” says Wang Liuyun.
This is also why she was fascinated by painting, which she sees as an escape from reality and a tool to help people heal.
“I make a living on the land, but I paint in the clouds,” he says.