Artists in the Field, China

COUNTRYSIDE Artist in the Field II

28 + 29 December, 2019, Le Ming, Liangkou Town, district Conghua, Guangzhou, Guangdong

Organized by GAFA university Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, University City Art Museum & Yuan Art Museum

Co-organizer: Guangdong Green Shoots Rural Woman’s Development Foundation

Special thanks to professor Chen Xiaoyang and Ruby Lau

First I want to thank GAFA University for the opportunity to visit Le Ming village and Yang Art Museum project. The invitation to participate in Field Research II was a special experience. This is my impression through ‘Dutch eyes’.

‘Talent is not a gift, it is something that has to be touched so it can bloom.’

street view Le Ming Village


Migration from villages to big cities is a worldwide force driven by poverty and opportunities. It is a big problem for the livability of the left villages. The Yuan Art Museum project thinks in the opposite way, they migrated from the city to the village.

By settling physically into the village the project is bringing artists for a residence to develop local projects and visitors for the museum. Artists and visitors use the facilities of the local hotel project, local kitchen project and local nature project. In that way the Yuan Art Museum project provides culture and income.

woman working in the field
local kitchen project

Le Ming village

Le Ming village is one of the villages distributed in the poorer rural areas of Liu-xi River. What I have seen is that inhabitants of Leming village live a way of life that no longer exists in the Netherlands. It existed 50 years ago, but not anymore.

Prosperity cannot be compared because the Netherlands is a small country and therefore easy to arrange. China is a different story. How to arrange prosperity for so many people? The population has to do it bottom-up, therefore it is an individual issue. How can one escape poverty?

The village has beautiful aspects of rural life and quietness in a balance of human and animal life. But on the other hand there is not much comfort, the infrastructure isn’t very good and there are very few opportunities to develop. One has to leave or stay. That is a very difficult choice and also an emotional one.

Yuan Museum in Le Ming Village
The Corner Cabinet Plan is one of the subproject of the public benefit art project “YUAN museum“.

Yuan Art Museum

The arrival of the white and clear Yuan Art Museum has brought a different kind of value to the village: that is the value of culture. Those are gentle (it means not measurable) visions on human value.

The programme of the museum brings larger visions of life to the village: different angels of life that can trigger the minds and visions that give hope and touch the mind of the children and elderly. To open something that otherwise would not have been triggered. Talent is not special, or a gift, it is something that has to be touched so it can bloom.

The fresh new building shows that there is more in life than old houses and muddy roads. The museum feeds the minds in the village if one is open to it. But also if one is not open to it, the museum triggers the eye and mind because of its diamond-like presence.

‘Meeting a larger world activates the imagination and its power’

The girls

Being a woman I was touched by the presence of the girls. Growing up in a remote village is not easy, also with the knowledge that there are always eyes on a girl or a woman. As a girl one has to be kind, gentle, lovely and as a woman one has to behaved well. There is always a role for a woman.

For a girl in a remote village, good education is not self-evident. Proper education can prevent early pregnancy and ensure prosperity in life.

playing outside
unexpected received note

Because of the lack of mobile phones or tablet it was great to see them play outside, having fun in the field, running, talking, moving instead of sitting behind the computer. Of course they have Internet and the possibilities of social media and the whole digital world. For me it was a while ago that I have seen children play so happy.

It is a well-know fact that social skill is promoted by playing with each other. It makes one strong and resilient. In that area, they may be ahead of other children who no longer play with each other and only play digitally and on their own. By playing but also by arguing they become self-reliant for a lot of situations. They can better assess every new situation and benefit from it for themselves. That is also a big quality for their future.

unexpected received note
unexpected received note

Children who learn how to make things by hand are better in finding solutions on later age in study and work. It is a important process of making connections in the brain. The skill can be projected on all kinds of work or situations.

Making art is one of those ways of training the brain. It is a healthy development for whole life. Therefore the presence of the Yuan Art Museum and the program is very special: being a gentle outstretched hand.

Left you see the notes I received because of being a foreigner. Out of nowhere they gave them after being in each others presence for two days in a non-verbal interaction with eye contact and body language. Of course they received a warm note back.

Seeing them drawing the notes and to receive the notes, trying to speak English, trying to make connection in a very basic way by drawing ‘you and me’ illustrates the human need of communication. That is a wonderful force in life.

girls peeping in the room and sitting in the bath

Before leaving they peeped in the hotel room driven by curiosity. After sniffing around they asked by pointing if they were allowed to sit in the bath. They played there for a while, full of imagination.

For me it shows that the beauty of the white bath with silver feet in the hotel for visitors is also a way to meet a larger world for the girls, it activates the imagination and its power.

woman transporting stones
older woman sitting after buying meat

In Le Ming village woman of all ages are present in local jobs, that also made the future life of the girls visible.

The Yuan Museum invites artists to develop a project based on the local situation. For example the Corner Cabinet Plan, based on an antique rural cabinet, that involves local carpenters. The project has been developed to promote the reconstruction of the original ecological crafts, local wood and carpenters, to obtain more sustainable vitality. Every sold cabinet provides an income.

The investment of Yuan Art Museum suggest a long-term vision and continuation. That is important. The modern entity penetrates as a stranger in the rural structure and influence people’s lives by bringing strangers to Le Ming Village.

It is of great future value for the inhabitants to receive modern culture, it can change the vision on life itself by reflection. That is a challenge for the organization.

‘The need of communication is a wonderful force in life.’

group photo by GAFA University