Text by Lin Yuan
“At an age when they should be cradled in their parents’ arms, a group of children were left at home alone. For these children, memories of their parents who travel to faraway cities to earn a living are characterized by a voice on a telephone or a periodic letter and money order. Unlike their peers showered with abundant care and love, they are raised by their aging grandparents in the countryside where the humble life hardens them.”
Gu Yuejiang penned these words to accompany Home ? Country Boy, one piece of his oil painting collection themed “Home ? Left-behind Children and Dream Chasers.” The beaming boy on the canvas is a left-behind child from Gu’s hometown. Running errands for adults during the busy farming season has become routine for the nine-year-old.
Gu Yuejiang decided to begin painting left-behind children after he returned home in 2005, eight years after he left for Beijing to pursue his dream. To express his nostalgia while documenting an aspect of China’s progressing urbanization, Gu has depicted many left-behind children in his hometown.
When painting them, Gu tends to capture their happy moments, which produce a wide variety of smiles on his canvas. However, when discussing the problems impacting the development of left-behind children, Gu illustrates his concern that most children left in his hometown lack access to the outside world (other than television) to gain a broader scope of knowledge. Moreover, due to insufficient guidance, they are more vulnerable to their guardians’ harsh punishments after misbehavior. For them, spiritual communication and comfort are the most pressing needs.
In terms of addressing the problem, Gu Yuejiang turns to brushes rather than talk of big ideas, opting to paint the amused children he encounters when returning home. “The living conditions in the countryside are getting better and better,” Gu notes. “I hope their parents can come back to visit more frequently.”?