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在线翻译:
szdaily -> People
Painter revitalizes old village with art
     2015-January-16  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Anna Zhao

    anna.whizh@yahoo.com

    NIUHU Old Village, a marginal place bordering Dongguan in Guanlan, Longhua New Area, could be like any other old village that was left to decay due to neglect, but thanks to native villager Deng Chunru, who is also an artist, it has been transformed into an art village that fosters a strong cultural climate. While seeking to revitalize the old village through art, Deng is preserving the old village in his own way.

    Transforming the village

    As a painter and curator of art exhibitions, Deng, 37, is a familiar face in Shenzhen’s art circles.

    Deng left the village in 1985 and didn’t return until his parents moved back for retirement to their hometown.

    When he visited the village in 2007, he was shocked to find that an ancient school, Qiming School, where he and his father had studied, was a desolate place.

    The school, with a history of 200 years, was decrepit and the schoolyard was overgrown with wild grass taller than a grown man. Only a barely visible memorial archway standing behind the school indicated the school’s unique place in history.

    The bleak scene struck Deng’s heart because he thought the school, where generations of people spent their childhood, deserved better care.

    He thought of renting the school from the village and making it a work studio together with two friends, but after a friend proposed turning the school into a mill to churn out inferior quality paintings, Deng decided to rent the place alone.

    He did some simple repairs on the building but retained its original appearance as much as possible. A room on the school building’s second floor was turned into his work studio, which was next to a roofless balcony where he could spend leisurely afternoons with a cup of tea.

    In 2012, Deng moved his family from bustling Luohu District to the secluded village. He believed the quiet and the village’s beautiful natural scenes would be good for his creativity.

    At first, Deng and his wife often had to drive miles to meet their friends. Later, the couple decided to invite their friends to visit them in the country.

    Not long after they became accustomed to life in the village, they were dismayed to find that more structures in the area were suffering from misuse and neglect. Village houses were being rented out as small, unlicensed workshops and some abandoned houses were used as scrapyards by migrant scavengers.

    As a native resident, Deng believed it was his duty to do something to prevent the situation from worsening. “Maybe I could induce more people like me to set up studios here so that the village could be maintained while keeping its overall environment unchanged,” Deng said to himself.

    He began introducing his friends to the village and helping them rent rooms from local villagers.

    Under Deng’s persuasion, some artists visited the village and were interested in moving there because they were attracted to its charming natural environment and relatively cheap rentals.

    But visiting artist faced issues. The local Hakka residents were skeptical of outsiders. They were worried their lives would be affected by this new influx of people.

    However, Deng worked to dispel the concerns of the artists and locals by working as a mediator between them. Deng spent his time and efforts helping every artist and villager agree on rental terms.

    Painter Liang Guyi was one of the earliest settlers who relocated his studio from F518 Idea Land in Bao’an District to a two-story building in the village.

    More artists who were seeking studios in a good environment with cheap rentals learned about the village. The artists formed a new group called “New Who Art Village,” a name designed to welcome newcomers, Deng explained.

    Deng was appointed the art village’s head, a title with no actual authority, but he tries to be a spokesperson for the interests of both the artists and the villagers.

    Keeping rentals in the village at reasonable rates may be the first concern for Deng, since some villagers began raising the rent after they saw the increasing demand for their houses.

    Last year, Deng and his wife initiated a program to give free art lessons to local children provided by visiting artists as thanks to the villagers.

    The village is now home to more than 50 artists from diverse backgrounds, including sculptors, pottery-makers, painters, performance artists, musicians and even writers.

    Artists in the village do not live behind closed doors, crafting their works in solitude. They often meet to share their works with each other and get encouragement and inspiration.

    Under Deng’s leadership, the village staged an exterior exhibition as part of the 2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture. Deng launched a program for Qiming School by inviting people to the school to give speeches and put on exhibitions, such as collections of old school books and historic photos of the school.

    In April 2014, the exhibition “New Who Live Art” was held in the village, which used artists’ work studios as exhibition venues.

    In May 2014, the village became a subvenue of the 10th China (Shenzhen) International Cultural Industries Fair. The event elevated the place from obscurity to fame with the participation of about 100 artists from around Shenzhen.

    The transformation of the village caught the attention of local authorities, who offered to improve local infrastructure. The bumpy roads were soon replaced with smooth concrete pavement and security cameras were installed on street corners. A deserted village house was revamped as the village’s art center with capital from the local government in early 2014.

    Opportunities and challenges

    As the village shot to fame, many investors came to Deng with ambitious projects aimed at making big profits from the village. But Deng turned down those offers — he doesn’t want the village to be excessively commercialized.

    “I don’t think art should stay away from the commercial market, but I want to find a balance in it,” he said.

    While the village is often compared with Dafen Oil Painting Village, Deng clarified that New Who is completely different from Dafen, where art is produced like an assembly line. “New Who is a very natural artistic ecosystem where artists get together to produce good works,” he said.

    Deng said he is not sure about the future of the village when the artists’ leasing contracts start to expire, but he will do his best to keep Now Who running by increasing its influence as an art complex.

    He is planning an international art exchange center in the village that will allow Chinese and international artists to display their works.

    As Deng and his wife got used to life in the village, material things became less important, but they worry that their daughter will not receive as good of an education as she could at a city school. But Deng’s wife, Wang Ting, thinks being together as a family is the most important thing.

    “[My husband] is a sincere person, so he often attracts people of similar temperament,” she said.

    As an art curator, Wang is still cautious about her husband’s dream of making the village an artist settlement because she believes it could be detrimental for artists to live in herds — an artist needs a tough environment to produce good works.

    “I don’t think it a good thing for artists to live a gregarious life. People in the art industry should be different from each other,” she said. “But I will always support him when he needs help.”

    “New Who is a very natural artistic ecosystem where artists get together to produce good works.”

    — Deng Chunru, an artist

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