Shanghai's old streets and lanes come alive in art exhibition

Giant paper-cutting art among several exhibits are on display at the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall that celebrate the "joy of childhood."      
Ti Gong

The traditional art form of paper-cutting is gradually losing its shine in this fast-paced society. However, a 17-meter-long scroll with 152 figures, 46 animals and 1,757 Chinese characters created by local artist Li Shoubai is attracting much attention at an ongoing exhibition in the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. 

Li's work, “Shanghai Children’s Folk Rhyme,” made in 2006 is on display together with 64 other paintings by children at the exhibition, titled “Streets and Lanes – Joy of Childhood,” which is organized by Shanghai Youth Activity Centre and the exhibition hall. It is part of the theme, “Iconic Shanghai – Shanghai Featured Road Cultural Tour.” 

The exhibition runs until October 29.

According to the organizers, the children’s paintings were selected from the competition, “My Streets and My Home,” and stress on different time and space as envisioned by them.

But the highlight is still the paper scroll of Li.

“Most of my paper-cuts and paintings are inspired by my childhood memories in a shikumen (stone gate) house and longtang (lane),” Li says.

Born into an artistic family in 1962, Li took to paper-cutting and painting from the age of 6. He was nicknamed “Mr Shikumen” for his works about the old residential houses and neighborhoods of Shanghai.

“Wandering in the lane and among the old shikumen houses, I feel the drive and urge to create. The elegant shikumen style inspires the imagination and creativity of those who lived here. This architecture is terse, economical and not extravagant,” Li writes on his website.

With his scissors, he created scenes of local children singing, playing games and flying kites in their shikumen surroundings. The detailed scenes gave a nostalgic feeling to the visitors.

According to the organizers, the exhibition tries to show two different childhood memories — from parents to children, and children to parents.

Ti Gong

Other exhibitions in the series feature 64 paintings created by 40 farmers in Jinshan District. Farmer painters, hailed as "Chinese Picassos," are known for their colorful creations of country life. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, they enjoy a rather peaceful life and paint their happy life on rice paper.

Their simple subjects are rendered in bold colors. They are often given away as diplomatic gifts. Some of them have been exhibited in more than 17 countries and regions, including at the prestigious British Museum in London.

The farmers usually use a wide range of striking colors across the canvas. Instead of exploring modern urban reality, traditional rural themes such as fishing, cloth dyeing, spinning and market scenes are preferred. Figures and objects are usually drawn in a way that most may consider "childish."

On the third floor of Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall is another exhibition that is curated by Chen Danyan, a well-known local female writer. Her books often reflect the nostalgia of old streets and buildings in Shanghai. Nearly 60 oil painters, including Wang Jieyin and Chen Yiming, have rendered their impression of the city on canvases.

Ti Gong

Exhibition details

Date: Through October 29 (closed on Mondays), 9am-5pm

Admission: 30 yuan

Tel: 6318-4477

Address: 100 People’s Ave

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