ISBN 7119030299Hardcover : 95 Pages Chinese-English 195mm X 220mmForeigen Languages Press 2002
By: Feng Shanyun
Patchwork, a traditional folk art of the Yanchuan region in northern Shaanxi province, Western China, originated in the distant past, with the emergence of cotton cloth. It was a product of the farming society on the rugged Loess Plateau, where the young married women quickly become nimble-fingered from sewing patches on tile torn clothes of their husbands and children. With the lapse of time, they learned to shape suitable patches into pictures of animals and plants, to add a touch of beauty to everyday work clothes.
This art form, in fact, can be found not only on clothes but also on the door curtains of their cave dwellings, shoes, caps, tobacco pouches, bags, aprons, tokens, etc. They please the eyes of the local people wherever they look. Moreover, patchwork art is no longer done only by women.
I am a farmer, born and bred on the Loess Plateau, by the Yellow River, The river, forging its turbulent way through the plateau, which was one of the cradles of Chinese civilization has for centuries been a source of inspiration for patchwork, The Yellow River, a huge patchwork picture I created was collected by the China Art Gallery a few years ago The Yellow River and the mystical Taiji symbol of the combination of Yin and Yang (the cosmic opposites) on the left of the patchwork symbolize the source of the Yellow River, the mother river; while the floating red, yellow and orange fine hair, the continuation of life. Standing upright in the middle of the picture is the figure of a mother calling to her sons and daughters. She is also the goddess of protection and propagation of the Yellow River folk culture of the Chinese nation. The father close to the mother with one eye open and the other closed is seeking a livelihood, squalling like a mountain. The family sitting around an ox in the lower left corner are the descendants of the land. There are also people laboring, donkeys trotting oxen pulling plows, boatmen defying tempestuous storms, male lions rampant , soaring dragons and birds ... I tried to reflect my understanding of the land over a long period of time through the patchwork, which is an artistic image condensed and distillated from The strong feelings of life, and an attempt to express the spirit of the Yellow River through its primitive culture and philosophy.
All the raw materials for patchwork pictures are made by ourselves - cotton is planted by us; homespun cloth, woven by us; and colors, dyed piece by piece by us on our kitchen ranges. We use patchwork pictures to reflect the life of the land, because the coarse, thick and solid qualities and bright and rich colors of the folk homespun cloth can better embody the simple, honest, kind and open-hearted characters of the people on the loess land. The north of Shaanxi Province is the home of folk paper-cuts, which are the basis of the shapes of patchwork pictures. However, due to the different materials used, the shapes of the latter are more condensed, succinct, exaggerated and active than paper-cuts, and its outlines are as succinct and powerful as the stone frescoes of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - A.D.220) unearthed in the north of Shaanxi. The colors used in patchwork art are based on those used in folk embroideries, but they are much more distinctive than the latter. An important thing to note is that because the pictures are made up of layers upon layers of cloth - up to more than 10 layers in some cases 0 the relief and plastic effects given rise to by the thickness are incomparably greater than the plane visual sense of paper-cuts.
Over the past two decades, patchwork art has made great strides, and a number of outstanding exponents of the genre have emerged in the Yanchuan region. Artists of the older generation are represented by Gap Fenglian, Liu Honglan and Wang Zhilan, concentrating on themes that reflect traditional culture and folk tales, such as the Door God, Dragon King, Unicorn Delivering a Son, Old Man Zhaoque, and Kitchen God. Gao Fenglian is also a famous folk paper-cut artist in China. The younger generation is represented by Liu Jieqiong, Gao Liping and Guo Rulin, who take their subjects and themes mostly from real life. I am sure that as the current drive to develop Western China picks up steam, the ancient folk art of Yanchuan patchwork pictures will gain new vigor and attract more attention from art lovers the world over.