Dafen Village: A Canvas of Tradition and Modernity in the Art World


Dafen Village has evolved into a beacon of artistic innovation, drawing talented painters from around the world and becoming a melting pot of diverse artistic styles. Rooted in this village, various painting styles and schools have flourished, evolved, and integrated, allowing artists to deeply infuse their works with a nostalgic essence from their homelands.

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In 2008, a global economic crisis severely impacted the commercial art market in Dafen, prompting a shift towards originality as the new driving force. To support and retain original artists, Dafen implemented both tangible and intangible measures: construction of affordable housing for artists, establishment of the first national art industry park with an accompanying museum to host free exhibitions of local original oil paintings, and collaboration with the China Artists Association to annually host the national youth oil painting exhibition in Dafen, offering a high-level platform for artistic exchange. Furthermore, policies were introduced to tackle the challenges of local residency, social security, and copyright protection for artists. Regular field trips are organized to enhance the creative vitality of original artists.

This emphasis on original art has not only carved a niche for Dafen in the art world but has also brought increasing recognition to its artists. Jiang Qingbei, honored as “the singer of nature” and the honorary president of the Dafen Artists Association, stands out as a notable figure. His plein air works masterfully blend traditional harmony with the textural intrigue of modern painting, showcasing his keen observational skills and expressive capacity. Another Dafen artist, Huang Fengrong, has innovatively merged painting with performance, turning the typically private act of painting into a public spectacle that synchronizes human movement with artistic expression on stage, earning him the title of “China’s foremost performance painter.”

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Moreover, these talented original artists are channeling their personal sentiments about Shenzhen and Dafen into their artworks, creating pieces that are both fresh and richly nostalgic. Artist Ke Mingze, for instance, captures the essence of rural life with scenes of village courtyards and bustling streets in his works, expressing a desire to evoke nostalgia and emotional resonance among viewers. Li Jiyong, an octogenarian painter from the Northeast, focuses on humanistic and social themes, depicting village elders and left-behind children with a profound sense of empathy and nostalgia, reflecting his joyful artistic journey predominantly spent in Dafen.

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Today, Dafen is more artistic and internationally recognized than ever, a pride shared by all its residents. Locals like Hong Hengwei still enjoy wandering the village’s familiar lanes, past old houses and galleries brimming with vibrant artworks, each step reviving cherished childhood memories and reflecting the vitality of Dafen.

In contemporary Dafen, the interplay of tradition and modernity, East and West, deep-seated nostalgia and fresh hopes, is steering this historic village towards a brilliant future, blending the past with the promise of new horizons.

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