Welcome to “Artist Spotlight”, a new column where each month we will be showcasing awesome artists (and their work) from yesterday, today, as well as upcoming artists you should know tomorrow! From fine art and illustration, children’s books to animation, comics and videogame concept art, hey maybe even fashion, we’ll aim to showcase the best of the best, especially underrated or unsung artists whose praise is long overdue. We’ll even dive deeper with occasional interviewers and questionnaires with the artists themselves.
Our first spotlight this summer is Wang Shuhui (王叔晖) (1912-1985) a Chinese Gongbi (meticulous brushwork) and Zhongcai (heavily colored) figure painter and illustrator who rocketed to fame in the 1950’s and 60’s China while at People’s Fine Arts Publishing House for her designs and artwork. While she is well known in China, she is not very well known in America. We’d love to change that.We were first introduced to Wang Shuhui at the People’s Fine Arts Publishing House booth at BEA 2015 this past May where we were captivated by a reprint of her 1954 illustrated version of Wang Shifu‘s Chinese classic romance, The Story of The Western Wing (traditional Chinese: 西廂記; simplified Chinese: 西厢记; pinyin: xīxiāngjì; Wade–Giles: Hsi-hsiang-chi) also known as West Chamber. Since we had never seen her work before, we asked about her and learned she was quite the artist and had a full and interesting life.
Shuhui got her start in illustration at the age of 15 studying at the Chinese Painting Research Institute where she was tutored by other traditional Chinese artists such as Wu Jingting, Xu Yansunand Wu Guangyu. While she pulled heavily from the traditional Gongbi tradition, she in particular also embraced lots of Western painting techniques into her work, including a deeper layered perspective and composition and more balanced sense of anatomy and proportion. We were also told that she was bent on producing authentic coloring for her costumes, studying actual ancient art and documents to make sure her period dress was correct. The ultimate result is a very unique and sensitive look blending the best of both art forms and traditions.
Shuhui’s body of work consist mostly of portraiture of characters from classic literature and history, focusing in particular on delicate but strong heroines or “ancient beauties”, but also used her portraiture skills for lianhuanhua (Chinese picture-story), sequential full page illustrated “comic books” of an often established classic narrative, functionally lying somewhere in between a graphic novel and a picture book. These were an immensely popular art form in the 20th century and are experiencing a revival in interest.
Her 16 page West Chamber is one of five lianhuanhua she produced and perhaps her most well known. Upon publishing it was an international best seller at the time and was later a winner of the first National Comics Award specifically for lianhuanhua in 1963. It was, and still is an object of immense pride for the company. She subsequently attempted in 1957 to do a 128 page version of West Chamber but the resulting oeuvre was seen as contentious during the Cultural Revolution so reputedly 118 of the pictures were destroyed, with the ten surviving illustrations currently housed at the National Art Museum of China.
Shuhui never married, working from a modest bedroom studio with a tiny desk until retiring in 1981 after completing new artworks for a series of West Chamber stamps which were published in 1983. She died in 1985.
We were extremely captivated by her work and we hope you’ll explore it. While English results are few, by googling her name 王叔晖 you get many examples and galleries of her work.
Like the artist spotlight initiative? Let us know about any artists both old and new that we should profile!
sources (for more reading):
Sub-Cultured is headed to where all the books go; BookExpo 2015! From Wednesday May 27th to Friday May 29th at Javits Center in NYC, BookExpo brings together all the big (and small) names in publishing and the literary arts industries to showcase what they’re made of (literally!).
I’ll will be flying solo for Sub-Cultured for this year’s Expo, which covers and features all the exciting new forthcoming books and products for the book publishing industry, with a great focus on children’s and YA offerings. Publishing houses and printing presses of all sizes attend from around the world to showcase their services, products and new titles. From classic megaliths like Penguin to smaller niche imprints, BookExpo has lots to offer. Panels, talks, and book-signings with popular adult fiction, children’s, YA, and celebrity authors. Additionally China is this years global market forum guest of honor and many of the spotlight talks will focus on the country.
I will be investigating the booths, seeking out my favorite publishers like NorthSouth, Simply Read, Chronicle Books, Boom!Studios, New York Review Books, Candlewick Press, Nobrow (and Flying Eye Books), Auzou, Minedition, Enchanted Lion Books to name a few (lol) to see what they’ll be offering this year. I will hone in, take pictures and showcase my “show picks” for books and products I think you should look out for or I think will be super special, as well as trying something different and recording interviews with booth representatives and authors.
Above all I will be asking everyone the question “What makes a good book?” and see what people say. To hear or see what kind of books open people up, see how we’re all different, or better yet, a lot more alike than we think, will be very, very cool.
In years past we’ve had rather tight schedules, but our favorite and most rewarding moments of the Expo were when things just happened naturally while walking around with lower key signings, chance meetings and special event invites and parties held by individual booths not BEA. Last year we met Tracy Letts, who wrote the popular play-turned Oscar nominated film, August: Osage County at one of the smaller booths that way as well as signings for children’s book What to Do With An Idea and other interactive on the spot things. That kind of spontaneous fun makes BEA always interesting.
Spotlights, panels and points of interest (just a taste!):
Wed, May 27
BEA Bloggers Conference (many panels) (Requires additional registration)
Blogger Networking Lunch & Raffle
12:00 PM- 1:15 PM | Room 1A06
You will receive your lunch voucher and two additional raffle tickets as you leave the 11:00 am sessions. You may use your voucher in the Javits Food Court so grab your lunch and bring it back to room 1A06 to network with fellow bloggers and be present for the Networking Lunch and Raffle Giveaway. We will be raffling off three $50 American Express Gift Cheques. (You must be present to win.)
Best in Fall 2015 Graphic Novels
| 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM | Uptown Stage
Marvel Presents: Star Wars
| 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM | Downtown Stage
Thursday, May 28th
Consortium’s Best Bets – with Biblioasis, Coffee House Press, Enchanted Lion Books, Flying Eye Books, and Toon Books
| 11:45 AM – 12:15 PM | Uptown Stage
In Search of Diverse Book Buyers
| 12:30 PM – 1:00 PM | Downtown Stage
Friday, May 29th
Children’s Book & Author Breakfast
feat Nathan Lane, Oliver Jeffers, Rainbow Rowell, and James Patterson.
8:00 am – 9:30 am
Wild At Heart: Animal Fantasy in Children’s Books
| 10:45 AM – 11:45 PM | Uptown Stage
- Meet BEA Young Adult Editors’ Buzz Authors
- Meet BEA Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz Authors
This is just a sample of what’s going on, I’d like to be able to see all of it but it’s nearly impossible with how much they have to offer. If you see me or recognize me come say hi! I’d love to chat. But be prepared; I will be asking you “What makes a good book?”
One of the most exciting booths Sub-Cultured visited during BEA and had the opportunity to talk with was with JR*Comics about their line of graphic novels. A Korean company, they are offering the “Four Great Classical Novels” of Chinese literature,written between the 14th and 18th centuries, in graphic novel form. They currently have sixty volumes of three of the four esteemed novels, adapted by writer Wei Dong Chen and art by Xiao Long Liang and Chao Peng. Each volume includes informative character lists, maps and appendixes to help the reader; a nifty feature.
The first offering, Monkey King, chronicles the origins and adventures of charismatic Sun Wokong, the mythic monkey king and his exploits during the Journey to the West; the first volume consisting of his birth, tutelage, defeating an ogre, and being dragged down into the underworld, and then some!
The second novelization, Three Kingdoms is based on the historical novel of the same name, showing a romanticized version of the age between 169 AD and in 280 AD during the fall of the Han dynasty and rise of the Three Kingdoms.
The third offering, Outlaws of the Marsh, or Shui Hu Zhuan is about 108 outlaws and bandits, reincarnations of 108 banished and later repented demonic spirits, or Stars of Destiny, who occupy Mount Liang and eventually become heroes for the kingdom.
The fourth classic novel, Dream of the Red Chamber, a courtly romance and drama about the rise and fall of the Jia Clan juxtaposed against the love triangle and friendships between three protagonists is currently in development and expected to be released in English by 2016.
Spearheaded by the energetic JR Han, I was incredibly lucky to be able to sit down with the publisher and talk to him about the comics, which have been a six year process of love to complete and get translated for the English market. I asked him what inspired him to tackle these novels and how long it must have taken to get them here.
” I loved these classic stories, so I wanted to play a role in sharing them, I’ve been very patient.” He said, “It takes about one month to translate a volume, 20 months to translate the entire 20 volumes for each of the three stories. It then takes a year to edit and make sure it’s translated perfectly. We need to be patient when investing and producing in putting these classics in comic form. It takes time.” I wasn’t surprised that it takes so long; the sample volume 1 giveaways JR*Comics was handing out for each series showcase dazzling full color pages. That alone takes time.
I asked why he wanted to share the stories with American readers, particularly teenagers; “We thought they had perfect range. Monkey King is about adventure, Three Kingdoms is political. Outlaws of The Marsh is about outlaws, gangsters, and Dream of The Red Chamber is about love. I want American readers to understand basic Chinese culture, so they can form bonds.” He stressed the need for countries like the US, China, Korea and Japan to be able to work together more and by sharing cultural literary legacies in an easy to read format, it makes learning about other cultures funner and that teamwork more possible. “I have a friend who’s son did not like to read, but we gave him one of the graphic novels and he really liked it and now enjoys reading more.”
JR believes by putting these stories in comic form like Batman and Spider-Man, you reinvent the past for the present but are also encouraging kids and teens to read more than just superheroes. No surprise, he’s an avid comic’s fan himself and admits he’s tried to see as many superhero films as they come out. I asked if he saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2, “Gwen dies!” he cried out, dismayed. He wants the same effect for these classics and to expand young readers, so JR is always looking for classics to reinvent.
I asked about future plans, and Mr. JR Han wants to do a western tale following the publication of Dream of the Red Chamber; Robin Hood. I asked him if there are any ideas for what would come after that and he shook his head and laughed; one great story at a time.
You can find the JR*Comics titles at book stores, libraries, and Amazon.com.
Stay tuned for a giveaway of three copies of the first volumes of the first three books as well as posters!
See you all real soon!