Painting: Zhang Jianlong

Zhang Jianlong really loves to paint. In fact, he says he can’t live without painting and has never done anything else for a living. Born in Northwestern China, the artist now lives and works in Song Zhuang’s artist village on the outskirts of Beijing. He creates images of childhood innocence and joy.  In his youth, Zhang painted whenever and wherever he could. He says his work is autobiographical as it reflects the joy he experienced as a child.  The wide smiles on his children also represent mouths that continuously sing.  When he was young, one of his teachers took him to visit a farmer. This trip was very important to him as he was introduced to various animals, which he would later depict in many of his artworks. Zhang reports that children respond favorably to his paintings and adults are reminded of how to see the world from a child’s perspective.  Still, interpretations vary. For example, some people say it looks as if the children may be screaming—not from joy, but from fear of what may lay ahead in adulthood.  Zhang responds that there is not only happiness in his images, but also a recognition that life has hardships and struggles. Zhang is pleased when viewers have different responses because it signals that they are involved with his work.