The winters in the countryside near Wuhan, China, can be bitterly cold, and most homes there aren’t equipped with central heating. To stay warm, the residents burn charcoal fires, says Zhu Liangchuan. “Everyone sits around a charcoal fire for heat while chatting, as they have done for many years,” says the artist, whose winning entry was inspired by his vacation there. “Suddenly, one day, I found the fire was very beautiful with the black charcoal burning into the red and white ash, forming a strong contrast, so I decided to paint it.”
In his watercolor, the self-described realist painter meticulously portrayed virtually every detail of the fire, from the soft flakes of ash and searing embers to the rusted and peeling metal basin. Although Liangchuan attends fine-art classes in Wuhan, he learned to paint with watercolors on his own about three years ago. Recently, the medium has become his primary mode of expression, he says. The fluid and extemporaneous qualities of watercolor align perfectly with the artist’s creative goals. “I want to record things that are about to disappear, let them stay at some point, and thus extend their life from another perspective,” he says.
The artist also portrays landscapes and people in his work, but still lifes are his favorite, especially depictions of “the small things” in life that people tend to overlook, says Liangchuan. “My inspiration comes from every familiar corner of my life,” he adds. “Some of these inspirations are in Wuhan, but some of them are found in other places.” By documenting his life and expressing his thoughts through art, Liangchuan says he hopes viewers find something in his paintings to contemplate, too.
This story was featured in the December 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art December 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
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