Note: To protect the privacy of our members, e-mail addresses have been removed from the archived messages. As a result, some links may be broken.
( The Record (Bergen County, NJ)
THE YOUNG EMPRESS OF ART
By Peggy O'Crowley, Record Staff
Date: 10-04-1991, Friday
Edition: All Editions -- 6 Star,
5 Star, 4 Star, 3 Star, 2 Star, 1 Star
Biographical: WANG YANI
Wang Yani stares silently at the
expanse of paper before her, legs
crossed and hands clasped
together like the gods who sit in the temples
of her native China.
In one swift movement, she
selects a large brush, daubs it with
ink, and paints a broad, black
swath across the rice paper. With tiny
filigree strokes, she rapidly
fills in branches off the tree trunk, as
that first swath now clearly
represents. Red plum blossoms, like
droplets of blood, fall from her
brush. A long, needlelike line becomes
the beak of an elegant bird.
Another, and yet another, appear at the
base of the now-venerable old
Her stockinged feet make no
sound as she kneels, crawls, and steps
around the work, intent on the
next brush stroke.
Finally, wiping moisture from
her flushed brow, she steps back to
contemplate her work. After
applying her seal, the red calligraphy stamp
that identifies the painter, she
sits down in her former position, legs
crossed, hands together, her
face a meditative study.
Thirty minutes after she began,
Wang Yani, the 16-year-old child
prodigy artist who has been
dubbed the "Picasso of China," has finished
This time, it is to the
thunderous applause of the appreciative
audience at The Manhattan
Children's Museum, where Yani is demonstrating
the ancient art of Chinese
It is the
10,000nth-and-something work she has completed -- Yani
herself says she has never
counted the outpouring of painting since her
earliest drawings captured world
attention at age 3 -- and it
commemorates the publication
this week of a retrospective, "A Young
Painter: The Life and Painting
of Wang Yani, China's Extraordinary Young
Artist" (Scholastic, $17.95.)
The book, for young readers,
chronicles Yani's development into one
of her country's premier, and
most famous, artists. Her work has been
shown in Asia, Europe, and the
United States. She became the youngest
person to have a one-person show
at the Smithsonian Institute in
Washington, D.C., in 1989.
The newest book also closes the
chapter on her childhood: The child
prodigy has become a young
"I'm very happy that another
book is going to be published. This is
the sixth book about me, and I'm
glad it is particularly devoted to
children. I also hope another
book for adults can be published so more
adult friends can understand
me," she says through an interpreter.
The comment is that of a
seasoned self-promoter, but Yani's
demeanor, a combination of
childlike precocity and the regal composure
of an empress, seems without
artifice. A slight, delicate young woman
who seems younger than the
average American high school junior, she is a
serious artist, and typical teen
questions about boyfriends, favorite
music and foods, and other
personal matters are met with a slow, steady,
and somewhat unnerving gaze.
Does she like rock-and-roll? She
solemnly shakes her head. Does she
date, now that she is nearly 17?
No, she replies. She admits, with a
little giggle, to a weakness for
Kentucky Fried Chicken.
What she does want to talk about
is her painting. Her face becomes
animated, her hands draw in the
air, as she describes her work, which
began at the age of 2 when her
artist father Wang Shiqiang took her to
his studio for the first time.
While he was painting, she
picked up a piece of charcoal and began
scribbling on the wall. Instead
of scolding her, he gave her a piece of
paper to draw on.
From then on, she was
unstoppable, painting every day. "When I was
very small, I often saw my
father paint. When I missed him when he was
away, I thought I could paint
instead of missing him," she recalls. "It
was a great pleasure to paint.
Now, my painting has become a way of
expressing my feelings."
Her earliest work looks like a
young child's typical "scribbles."
But by 3, her talent was
beginning to emerge. On a trip with her father,
she went to the zoo and saw some
monkeys. From that experience, Yani
drew hundreds of pictures of
monkeys, and they became her major subject.
In painting after painting,
troops of whimsical, mischievous
monkeys steal fruit, get drunk,
climb trees, and jump on the back of a
waking lion. A work she
completed at age 4, "Scratching an Itch for
Mother," in which a baby monkey
scratches his mother's back, was
reproduced on a postage stamp by
the People's Republic of China.
The skill and vitality of her
paintings soon gained critical
attention: Recognizing a talent
greater than his own, her father, a man
with a ready smile who is never
far from Yani's side, gave up his oil
painting when Yani was 8 to
serve as her mentor.
Unwilling to tamper with such
originality, however, he made sure
Yani never received formal
training. Yani agrees that painting cannot be
taught. "Once in Germany, I was
asked to teach children to paint. But it
is only the colors, the paper,
and you that you can depend on," she
She admires other painters, but
is not influenced by them. Her
inspiration, she says, comes
from nature, from the countryside around
her native Gongcheng in southern
As independent as she is, her
work follows centuries-old tradition.
Yani espouses the xieyi hua
style of Chinese brush painting, a technique
that is freer and more energetic
than the formal, detailed gongbi hua
Exuberance is controlled by
precision. After her demonstration,
there is not a drop of paint on
her shimmering white silk blouse or her
white jacket decorated with
chrysanthemums in the golds, grays, and
browns of a brush painting.
Her subject matter is also
evocative of traditional Chinese
painting, which concentrates on
animals, birds, and trees, landscapes,
Yani is moving away from the
whimsical animals she favored in her
early years. She is becoming
serious about landscape, and has started
painting figures, a sign of her
maturity as an artist.
Child prodigies face tremendous
pressure as they age out of the
precocity that wins them such
acclaim. Where Yani goes with her talent
is an open space, like an
untouched sheet of rice paper. Her future is
uncertain, except for her
passion to paint.
"My father will make plans for
my future," she says simply. "I will
be concentrating on my
Illustrations/Photos: 4 PHOTOS -
(1)Wang Yani displayed art talent by age 3,
(2) when she began painting
monkeys, (3)one of which graces the cover of a
sixth book about her. (4)Yani
uses the traditional Chinese style of brush painting
in her artwork.
Keywords: CHILD. ART. CHINA.
Copyright © 1991 Bergen Record
Corp. All rights reserved.
Peggy O'Crowley, Record Staff
Writer, THE YOUNG EMPRESS OF ART. , The Record (Bergen
County, NJ), 10-04-1991, pp c08.
This E-mail message is from Artist/Teacher Woody Duncan Rosedale Middle School in Kansas City, Kansas the new URL for school is http://kancrn.kckps.k12.ks.us/user04 to see my beautiful grandkids Tim, Tess and Tiff click on http://www.taospaint.com/NineMonths.html to see my students working in the RMSartSTUDIO click on http://kancrn.kckps.k12.ks.us/user04/art.self.htm to contact me via E-mail click on wduncan better yet visit my Web Site at http://www.taospaint.com