While strolling in Shanghai I happened upon a small art gallery that caught my eye. Just off the main road and down a nondescript alley, I thought it would be fun to check it out. Once inside, I immediately noticed the visitors smiling and giggling at the art, and while I could understand some, It was often difficult to fully understand the humor or laughter in the work (though all of the other native Chinese patrons in the small gallery were chuckling, none spoke English). Given the likely cultural differences between our worlds, the smiles from the other people in the gallery were infectious and I knew he must have been someone very special to have lit up all of these faces.
It took a little time to realize that I was in the art gallery of the prominent political cartoonist He Youzhi who had recently passed away, and that the gallery was run by his daughter. I couldn’t help but grin as I took in the magnitude of his legacy and of course the happy laughter that filled the gallery.
Born in Shanghai in 1922, He Youzhi spent more than half a century creating comics that were political or portrayed everyday life in Shagnhai. He painted some 90 comic series, and was still creating new work into his 90s.
He was known to be a master of Chinese comic art style, in which he used the traditional line drawing of Chinese painting.
I picked out a series of some of his smaller pencil drawings depicting every day scenes and they too make me smile now, not only because of the actual work but also because I think back upon the laughter and amazement in the small gallery that day. How serendipitous that I randomly bumped into it. Now that is #onlyjoy!