The Soul of the Black Earth - Contemporary printmaking from Heilongjiang Province, China

The Soul of the Black Earth presents reproduced woodblock print images that tell the story of four generations of printmakers from Heilongjiang province, northeast China.

In February 2020, Manchester Confucius Institute brought this exhibition to The University of Manchester in collaboration with Heilongjiang Museum of Art 黑龙江省美术馆 and Dr He Weimin. After successfully exhibiting a small selection at Alliance Manchester Business School, we are pleased to invite you to explore a much larger collection at the following art space:

In 1958, thousands of demobilised soldiers were sent to Beidahuang with a purpose to transform the Heilongjiang wasteland into prosperous farmland. Amongst the soldiers were many amateur artists who took the fertility of the land and the momentum of socialist realism as inspiration for new, innovative work depicting the vast land and its people with vivid colours. These printmakers became pioneers for distinctive printmaking techniques and their robust and lyrical yet realistic styles, with each generation inspired by political and economic changes.

There are now 200 active printmakers in Heilongjiang, their styles are as versatile as ever and their achievements continue to gain international recognition.

Prints from this region are widely known as Beidahuang or Great Northern Wilderness School of Printmaking 北大荒版画学派, which is one of the most influential and characteristic schools in the Chinese art arena.

Below, you can view the introductory video shown at the opening event in February 2020, with contributions from featured printmaker Chen Yanlong who is demonstrating his printing technique: