總是笑意盈盈的花婆婆，像總是叫你添衣吃飯的阿嫲，年過九十，即使行動沒有年輕時自如，還是每朝精神奕奕地忙東忙西。訪問當天花婆婆也是一早起來畫了數朵花在一張細小的金色卡紙上，小心翼翼地帶來畫廊，畫上面的油漆還未乾透呢。「我每天起來便拿起畫筆畫畫，以前會周圍走、周圍畫，現在行動不便就在花園的空地畫，太陽下山便收起畫具回到屋裡。」在 13A New Street Art Gallery 舉行的「Dancing With Flowers by Fapopo」，展覽的正中位置由不同的日常物品組成了一組藝術裝置，頭頂上掛了一堆，地上也放了一堆，看似亂中有序地擺放著，這正是模仿花婆婆家的狀態，滿屋都是她的作品，每一件平凡的日常物品，或是被掉棄的物件都能成為花婆婆的畫布，幾乎可以畫的地方都有她的筆跡。
Bright and colorful flowers are painted on these ordinary everyday items: wooden boards, folded chairs, umbrellas, vinyl records, and even frying pans. Sometimes you can also see birds, chickens, and other animals; and next to them, there’s a name, Fapopo, scribbled on the paintings. “My granddaughter taught me how to write my name. I’ve never been in school. And I started painting only at the age of 80. My granddaughter said that I should sign my paintings. So I learnt how to write my name.” And because it’s the Lunar New Year, she learnt how to write words of blessings like “luck”, “tons of gold”, “good luck”, “good health and peace” so she can write them on the lucky cats that she draws. “It’s new year after all. Words of blessing are necessary. And they make the paintings look so much happier.”
With a constant smile on her face, the over-90-year-old Fapopo looks just like an ordinary grandma who is always concerned for others’ well being. Have you eaten? Are you wearing enough? Even though she can’t really move around like a youngster anymore, she tries to stay active and keep herself busy. On the day of our interview, she brought along with her a small golden paperboard painted with flowers. It was something she did early that morning and the paint was still wet. “I wake up every morning, and the first thing I do is draw. I used to move around and set up my station everywhere. But now that I can’t move easily, I paint in the garden instead. Everyday I paint until the sun goes down, and I will then pack up my brushes and go back inside the house.” Dancing with Flowers by Fapopo is an exhibition of her work that is currently held at 13A New Street Art Gallery. At the center of the exhibition hall, there is an installation. A pile of common objects on the ground, with some others hanging down from the ceiling. Chaos in an orderly manner; this is exactly what Fapopo’s house is like. Her paintings can be seen everywhere in her house. Every ordinary object, and even unwanted trash; anywhere that could be painted is Fapopo’s canvas.
“You have painted so many flowers. Which one is your favorite?” I asked. “I like all of them.” Each flower that Fapopo painted has its own name. It’s probably because of her past experience selling flowers in the Flower Market that helps her paint with such vibrancy and accuracy. Nevertheless, her painting has a very unique style. “When I was young, I needed to go ranching up in the mountains. I remember that there was a large flower field there. It was so very beautiful. No one knew about that place. I played there. I climbed trees. Jumping from one tree to another. Now that I think about it. It was quite scary what I did. But I was just a child at that time. Fearless and naughty.” Her eyes sparkled when talking about that flower field. Maybe it was the first time she came across flowers and was stunned by their beauty? Ever since then, flowers and Fapopo’s life have been intertwined.
“I paint flowers every day, because I have to thank them.” Fapopo used to sell flowers in the Flower Market to support her family. With no extra cash handy, she had to paint her house by herself. It was such an important experience because it got her familiar with paint, and she eventually adopted it as her art medium. “The color of paint is so bright and vibrant. It doesn’t fade. I often paint on walls outside. I also paint on the ground, chairs, and other random objects. I place my work everywhere in the garden. Even if it rains, the paints don’t lose their color so easily. They look beautiful even after a long time.” On the day we met, it was Fapopo’s black leather shoes painted with pink flowers that caught my immediate attention. She smiled and said thank you as I sent my compliments. She often says that flowers have supported her and her family, and therefore she paints them every day to show her gratitude.
Without formal training in painting or the arts, Fapopo has developed a very vivid and strong personality in her paintings. It’s obvious that she is thoughtful about the composition and use of color. Straightforward and full of childlike energy. A pure and innocent devotion to painting. “I once saw a handsome boy on TV and I painted him.” Fapopo draws whatever she sees and thinks of. As long as there are empty spaces, she’ll fill them up with her drawings. Interviewing her is more like having a chat with a kind-hearted elderly person. My questions about creative inspiration, meaning, or techniques seem to be a bit too much for Fapopo. Her work is just that simple and direct. It comes as natural as breathing. And everything else seems unimportant.
An old lady in her nineties who paints everyday and is now holding an exhibition with numerous interviews lined up for her in a day. I wondered, “Are you tired today Fapopo?” With a bright smile, she replied, “Not at all!”