39.3cm x 109cm ≈ 15½" x 43"
This work was done in Beijing by Mr. Wang (as told in the story below). It is done on special white art paper. It's a very nice black and white image created by his skilled hand with just a few tiny pieces of charcoal.
The result is a simply elegant bamboo portrait.
Bamboo has a deeper meaning in Chinese culture.
Bamboo represents the aspects to a true noble gentleman.
Bamboo is straight (honest), and Chinese people also believe that bamboo represents the modesty, strength, and never gives up because it continues to grow taller and taller.
All of the traits of a good man.
This is the story of the first time I stumbled across Mr. Wang in his obscure art studio just outside Beijing, China during the Winter of 2002...
I walk in without saying a word, he just looks up for a second and nods at me which lets me know it's okay to be there.
He's working on the bamboo picture that you see in the picture below. I snap a few pictures and wait silently.
The temperature is below freezing, but somehow his ungloved agile hand smoothly creates the stock and leaves of a beautiful bamboo.
He finally finishes and looks at me with a puzzled face.
I ask (in Chinese) how much he wants for his beautiful charcoals...
...I see a look of relief on his face when he hears me speak and he laughs out loud.
He tells me that he was worried about how he was going to talk to me, because he thought that no foreigners could speak Chinese.
He says that he can't speak a single word of English except for "hello" (which he practices for me several times with lots of laughter).
He tells me that he's from the countryside and had come to Beijing to sell his artwork and find a better life.
Looking around his studio, I begin to wonder if it's also where he lives. The cold winter breezes blow straight through the place. To keep warm his little stove in the corner does the best it can. However, the poor stove is looking rather defeated as the chill sets in.
As I began to wonder, he answers my question before I ask it. He tells me that life is a lot better since he came to Beijing to sell his artwork.
His wife arrives and pours some tea for us...
I pick out a few of his charcoals and don't bother to bargain too much - I know he needs the money (if you don't bargain at all, you lose face in Chinese culture and are seen as a fool - so I have to bargain to a little).
After that, we sit around and talk about Mr. Wang and his wife's family and what kind of Chinese tea is best...
2005 Update: Mr. Wang has found himself a nice place to live in a village not too far from Beijing. He is in his element where he feels that he belongs, a small farming village. He likes the simple life and he is really
enjoying his retirement now. He doesn't need to be in the big city very often as I buy most of the art that he creates. And, since I have exposed his artwork to the world, other sellers of Asian folk art now seek him out to buy his beautiful drawings. Sometimes he comes to Beijing to drop off some of his new charcoal art to me, and sell some of his artwork at a local arts and antiques market in Beijing. When he comes to the city, I know he can't wait to get back to the country. When I am in the country picking up art from Mr. Wang or another artist, I often wonder which life is better.
I have yet to draw any conclusions...
I guess there is more to the story that you should know. You see, Mr. Wang had to keep his talents hidden for many years.
It all started when China was thrown into turmoil after the Japanese invaded and WWII took it's toll on the country.
After Chairman Mao took power in 1949, China's fate was sealed, and the country was changed forever.
After a few of Mao's plans went disastrously wrong, a new plan called "The Cultural Revolution" was implemented throughout China.
At first, it seemed like a good idea to many Chinese people, but spiraled into a catastrophe that set China back 20 years and cost millions of people their lives.
(This is a much deeper topic that you can Google later)
The Cultural Revolution eventually caused intellectuals, educators, and artists to be persecuted and either killed or forced to become peasants in the farmlands of China. The only way to escape this fate was to flee the country.
During this time, Mr. Wang would not even dare to decorate his own home with his artwork, much less try to sell it. He just lived as a peasant farmer for many years, and occasionally, he would scribble a drawing on an old newspaper or even a leaf with bits of charcoal from his cooking stove.
Finally, after Chairman Mao's death, things have been getting better. China now has a virtually free-market economy, and capitalism is everywhere. Artists are now free to sell their wares from their homes, studios and markets. Techniques for creating art that date back thousands of years are alive and well as the artistic community is once again flourishing in China.
And finally, Mr. Wang has been able to trade in his plow for some paper and pieces of charcoal. And now he can express all of the beautiful images that were held captive in his mind for so many years.
The image above shows a slightly cropped view of this work.
The measurements shown reflect the overall size.
I think you will want to crop this horizontally by an inch or so and of course when you get this framed, your matting will cover any slightly rough edges of the paper.