Female Chinese Writer Amazes Both Littérateurs and Artists Alike

January 28, 2015
By Chen MengxiEditor: Kathy Cao
Female Chinese Writer Amazes Both Littérateurs and Artists Alike
Chinese female writer Sheng Keyi [Beijing Evening News]

As one of the most popular female Chinese writers within the global literature community, Sheng Keyi released her latest novel, Barbaric Growth, on January 16, 2015 and exhibited her paintings for the first time as well.

Born in the 1970s, she has won many praises from international media outlets: The New York Times commends her as a rising star in literature; The Times calls her one of six Chinese writers you really should know; and The Wall Street Journal says that she is an emerging young writer in the Chinese literature community.

Sheng's writing style features a sort of bite that is uncharacteristic of a female author in China. The sincerity and bloodiness in the early works of Yu Hua — a male novelist from Hangzhou(a city in east China's Zhejiang Province)famous for incorporating the irrational and abnormal into his writing —can be easily found in Sheng's works and have served to deeply impress her audience.

Sheng claims she learned much from Yu. Even though her writing is truly influenced by Yu, Yu has not actually taught her in any official capacity. Another renowned writer and Nobel laureate, Mo Yan, also appreciates her boldness, to the point that it is his own personal calligraphy in which the title of Barbaric Growth is inscribed — a common and artful Chinese practice for book cover titles, which are often penned by other famous individuals.

Hearing such words of support for her own personal style, Sheng decided that Barbaric Growth would be a particularly appropriate title for her new book. "It tells the barbaric growth of myself, my painting and my writing —like a tree in wilderness, whose growth is driven by its yearning for the sky," says Sheng.

As a representative of 70s-era writers, Feng Tang thinks Sheng is different from her peers. "We keep silent," Feng said, "She gives us a voice." Experiencing various hardships, Sheng feels that "literature gives us hope for life."

According to the publishing house of her works, Sheng earns from her paintings as much as three times what she makes from her novels. Sheng began painting in 2013 and matched her first prose collection, Why Doesn't Spring Come, with her own paintings in 2014. She used the creative integration of words and paintings as a way to narrate artistically the past events of her childhood.

The January 2015 exhibition marks Sheng's first time showing her paintings to the public. Filled with truth and warmth, her artworks portray her image with simplicity, bluntness, persistence and beauty.

Though Sheng has been receiving the approval and acclaim from other professional artists, she remains humble. "I'm just a novelist exploring the dimmer sides of human beings. I'm not good at expressing the soft, beautiful side of my inner self. These paintings capture my regret, and I never plan to hide my more real side. It's an interesting hobby, and gives me great gratification," said Sheng.

"The beauty in Sheng's paintings goes beyond mere art skills; they are an unadulterated reflection of her inner heart," said famous Chinese artist Lei Ziren who served as a lecturer at the School of Arts of Renmin University of China, one of the top universities in China, two years ago.

(Source: Beijing Evening News/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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