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China's Veteran Artist - 14-Year-Old Wang Yani

Exhibited since she was 4, her work is known worldwide. ART

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WANG YANI, a 14-year-old Chinese artist, hunkers down in blue jeans on a great rectangular swathe of paper on the floor of the Sackler Gallery here. She sits silently for more than five minutes, thinking about what painting to start on the blank paper before her. About 100 people - reporters, photographers, TV camera men - watch in uncharacteristic silence. Suddenly she springs diagonally across the paper, paint brush in hand, and in one lightning motion spreads an undulating, thick black line of ink across the blankness from top left to bottom right.

Then she sits back, eying the line of mountains which has just become the spine of her new painting. Over the next hour or so, she will alternate long moments of contemplation with bursts of painting as two of her signature monkeys, blurred crysanthemums, Chinese squash, and narcissus take shape in the painting she decides to call ``The Happy Partners in the Orchard.''

This extraordinary child prodigy, who has been an acclaimed painter in China since age 4, is used to an audience as she paints. In fact, she is accustomed to painting as a spectator sport; she has demonstrated her technique from the center of a Shanghai stadium as thousands watched. To the left of Yani as she paints, underground at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, stretch rooms full of her work. They are part of new Sackler show, ``Yani: The Brush of Innocence,'' which includes 69 of her lively brush-and-ink paintings.

By the time she was 6, Yani had done 4,000 pictures, and her work had been exhibited throughout China as well as in Hong Kong. Recent exhibitions of her work in Japan, West Germany, and England have made her an internationally known painter.


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