A poetic description of China’s modern-day elders calls them 70-year-olds with the faces of 60-year-olds, the fashion sense of 50-year-olds, the daily lives of 40-year-olds, the energy of 30-year-olds and the dreams of 20-year-olds.
Artist Huang Ruihong, who recently celebrated her 70th birthday, see herself in that description.
Before retirement, Huang was a middle school Chinese teacher. She has since enrolled in a college for seniors to study traditional Chinese painting. “Painting lifts my mind and spirt… When I sit in front of a desk and draw, I feel satisfaction in my heart. I have so many ideas and so much to learn,” she says.
Among her many paintings, Huang’s favorite is The Song of Morning. The image feature two sparrows inspired by her childhood. “During my childhood, the country was swept up in a huge movement to ‘Eliminate the Four Pests,’” she says. The sparrow was among them. “People were divided into squads, and everyone was given something to make noise. We had to chase the sparrows. We didn’t give them a moment to rest.”
“No one realized the serve consequences they were facing by eliminating the birds,” she says. “The broken food chain allowed grasshoppers, the real pests, to damage agricultural income and people struggled with famine for many years.”
“It was a stupid mistake. But if we look at society today, we can correct the mistakes of the past and improve the relationship between man and nature,” she says.
Xiangyi Xiangsui is another painting with a meaningful message. Huang depicts several Chinese bulbuls, a symbol of family fortune, perched on a branch. “I have found an interesting trend in modern society. Divorce rates are soaring, and marriage seemed more united and happier in the past,” she says. “Society is composed of small families. If those families aren’t happy, the entire country isn’t united.”
The Hide and Seek shows her attitude and passion for life. The children in her images play games, and in their optimism and fun Huang sees hope for the future.
“I wish I could see my childhood having an image like that. Our days were harder, but my sisters and brothers were united. I hope the future can be as cohesive, but without so much pain and hardship,” she says.
Through her paintings, Huang attempts to convey a positive message and hope. In her Ruitu Chengxiang, she wishes the best for the coming spring and hopes people will show kindness. The rabbit is a symbol that encourages people to have a kind heart – something Huang considers the most important feature for youth.