Yaping’s Story

by David Keuneman

Yaping is bringing a fusion of Chinese and Western Art to many hundreds of young people in Melbourne.  China and Australia are too often seen as being linked in purely material ventures.  Here is the story of someone who has struggled to mix the spiritual and artistic outlooks of the two countries.

Yaping was born, brought up, and trained as an artist in China of the Cultural Revolution.  In the late 1980s circumstances found her in Melbourne without any job prospects or opportunities.  She worked at jobs in factories to support herself, to learn English and learn the ways of Australia.

But Yaping’s story is one of determination.  Determination to integrate into a new society; but at the same time treasuring and integrating the artistic traditions of the China which she loved with the imaginations of a new generation of young Australians in the new country she loved.   She needed to get back to her art.

Since 1998 she has gradually, and single-handedly built up a metropolitan Art School, using rented premises in Balywn, Box Hill, Preston, Doncaster and Glen Waverley.  She guides young children through using some of the formaliy of a Chinese art education method, but at the same time encouraging a freedom and observation of nature with an Australian eye.

Recent milestones have been the mounting of an exhibitions of art works from her students.  The current show from 130 students is taking place right now in the Manningham gallery.  It has support from Multicultural Arts Victoria, Victoria Multiculture Commission and the Manningham City Council as part of their Cultural Diversity program.    The exhibition runs until April 10th, and would provide a good focus for exploring the achievements of Yaping.

The diversity of the art in this new exhibition – entitled “ eARTh, Drawing on Nature” – comes from children from the age of four to fifteen.   It has all been produced since January this year in response to a call from Yaping for the students to use their imagination about treasuring our Environment.

Yaping’s own art has never stayed still, and she has absorbed the freedom and imagination of Australian art and landscape into her palette.   An accomplished award-winning artist herself, she transmits this fusion to her students, who come not only from Australian-Chinese backgrounds, and also increasingly from other Australian cultural backgrounds.

Yaping’s found herself in Australia over two decades ago, knowing no English, but having Art in her being.  Hers is a story of finding ways to blend two cultures together, bringing to the young people of her newer country her artistic tradition and vision, her talent and her inspiration for art education.