Painters’ Street (212 Wending Lu, near Nandan Lu), is a small lane in Xujiahui with ten or so stores offering a wide array of art fakes, including homages to Yue Minjun, Zhang Xiaogang and Roy Lichtenstein. Paintings start from just 80RMB for 60x40cm Vincent van Gogh paintings that look good, even if one shop owner says anyone could knock one off. Some of the most ambitious works cost tens of thousands of RMB, but you can also get paintings custom made from your own photos for 800-1,500RMB. We spoke to three of our favourite Painters’ Street artists about their art.
Training Chen’s had no official training, but says he doesn’t know how to do anything other than paint. ‘I think painting is not a hard thing to do. Other people have no hands and they play piano very well with their feet.’
On art ‘Here, drawing is not a high class art form,’ he explains. ‘Sometimes we treat it as a way to make money, to feed ourselves.’ He says the richly textured abstracts with bold dashes of orange that we admired are cheap (1,200RMB), ‘because they only take about three hours to make’.
Favourite artists ‘I don’t like the entire oeuvre of any artist but I like some paintings by one and other paintings by another.’
Introduced as a graduate of the prestigious China Academy of Art, Jia Qiang has to stifle a laugh. He may not have such a sterling academic background but he was commissioned to paint a portrait of the Hong Kong movie star Andy Lau for Benny Chan’s Shaolin. ‘The director told me that he walked up and down the street ten times before deciding that I was the best painter,’ Jia says.
On art ‘I do all sorts of paintings, but I like to do human portraits most. Here, most people who come to buy paintings are ordinary Chinese folk who especially like abstracts. Foreigners mostly come to commission portraits.’
Favourite artists ‘Chen Yifei’s realistic style is very hard to imitate. His technique and foundation are very good, very solid.’
Training Liu studied at Jimei University in Xiamen and graduated from the China Academy of Art. Specializing in stunningly textured paintings of Beijing opera, Liu crafts his impastos with a palette knife.
On art ‘This style is China’s but 90 per cent of my customers are foreigners. Chinese people don’t appreciate such vibrant colours.’
Favourite artists Liu likes Van Gogh’s ‘bold use of impasto and colours’. He also likes Liu Linghua, who, like Liu Senzhen, paints subjects from Beijing opera.