Hidden within Dushi Garden compound there is an art studio that is pulsating with the beat of creativity and talent. Every part of this place is encaptured with an idea in mind: Expression of self. As I made my way there through the silent tree lined roads and pathways, I heard my name shouted somewhere within the foliage. As I approached through the trees the disembodied voice came into light when I came to stand at the garden gate of Wuhua art studio.
It was here that Joyce came into view, seven steps up from the ground she looked down on me beaming from the entrance of her studio. She is the person I have come to see today and her art studio is what I would like to introduce to you. A graduate of China Academy of Arts, she opened her studio in the hope of not only teaching the basics of how to paint but in the hope that people can learn how to express their emotions using different methods. By using tools of observation, feeling and expression to communicate in a nonverbal language, a language that is based purely on aesthetics.
She begins to tell me all this as we sit down in the studios garden, the air is cool but not cold, the light is fading and this feels more like meeting an old friend than an interview. As we sit she offers me a cigarette but I decline, I have recently quit, and thus our interview begins ‘Do you think Suzhou is a good city for art?’ I ask. She takes a drag of her cigarette pausing before she responds, ‘Yes and no. Suzhou has the right history for art, its an ancient city with a long artistic background, which has impacted the people here. The people of this city want more to their lives. More than food or money, but a quality to life which they can get from art. No, in the sense that there are not so many places to view art in the city. Suzhou Museum would be in my opinion among the best, as it houses both Western and Oriental exhibitions’ she tells me.‘What would be the differences between the two?’ I ask ‘Traditional Western art is more in a style of recreation, to paint what you can see but Chinese art is more of an expression of the artist, used to convey feeling, both have their points of value. I believe that Western arts value lies in its use of colour and its depiction of nature. Whereas Chinese art is more spiritual, by this I mean, it can be used to elevate the audience to a higher spiritual level. For example, you have two traditional paintings of a mountain, one is in the Western style, the second in the Chinese style. In the first painting, you see the mountain and you can feel how magnificent it looks yet in the Chinese painting you can begin to think that you are lost in that mountain.’
Being an art lover myself and having been to an abundant amount of exhibitions in China I had never heard this before. I had never realized that this was the way to view Chinese landscape paintings, and truthfully, for me, many of these landscape paintings had blended into one. Yet when I went to an exhibition after this interview, I came across a mountain landscape in the traditional Chinese style, and I looked at it with a new perspective, sadly I did not get lost in the mountain painting, but I had more of an understanding of what the artist wanted to say. ‘Here at my art studio, that sense of reaching a higher level in art is what I want to teach my students, of course we will show them the basic techniques, colour and mixing but we will also lead our students so that they will learn how to express their emotions independently of the teacher.’
Joyce employs a number of art teachers here at Wuhua, I spoke to two of them on their own views of art. ‘Art is a form of expressing emotion and expressing understanding. The purpose of art is to cultivate people’s ability to perceive beauty, appreciate beauty and create beauty. The purpose is to promote the harmonious development of people’s body and mind.’ 石震 Zhen Shi told me, his speciality being Chinese and Oil painting. The second art teacher, 张锦文 Jin Wen Zhang, a graduate of oil painting from Sichuan University believes that ‘People need art. Art can bring people happiness and can also help people to know about the history of the world.’
Jin Wen Zhang
In many respects these statements are true, art can give us a view of the past that documents, letters and even photographs cannot. Art can not only depict what the artist has seen, but also depict their emotions ‘Van Goghs cafe, I love the colours, the warmth, you can feel it, but you can also feel the loneliness’ Joyce tells me. As our time together comes to an end I ask her one last question. ‘I am an art teacher, not an artist. When I say artist, I mean that they have certain qualities, loneliness, madness, selfishness, yet it’s not a bad thing, because of these things they care less about people, so they can focus on themselves. They can pay more attention to themselves, and so the better masterpieces they can create.’
For those who would like to see a masterpiece done at Joyce’s Wuhua studio. I give you a rather short treasure trail. In a popular bar in Suzhou, there is a painting of a white cat drinking a glass of red wine. This painting was done at Wuhua under the guidance of 张锦文 Jin Wen Zhang. Keep your eyes open for it and I implore you, for those who are wanting to try their hand at painting, even if only for a short time and even without any great talent for it, try Wuhua studio, I believe that no one could ever regret passing through the trees to spend some time there.
follow Suzhou WuHua Art Studio
Address: Block 67-101, Dushi Garden, Xingdu Street 19, Suzhou.
WuHua provides http://franklinpta.net/support/ professional painting courses, including
oil-painting, sketch, watercolour-painting, coloured pencil painting, acrylic painting,
Also, there are lessons in Ebru art (painting in water), Bandhnu and soap making.
Each class is 2 hours. You can take your artworks home.
The price for acrylic painting, Ebru art, Bandhnu and soap making is 188 RMB.
Oil-painting: 250 RMB, sketch: 160 RMB, watercolour-painting: 180 RMB and coloured pencil painting: 180 RMB.
WuHua Art Studio
Dushi Garden, Xingdu Street 199, Suzhou.