On a normal day, there is not much waiting in the Upper Waiting Hall, deep in the centre of the Houses of Parliament.
Close to the 19 committee rooms where over 700 public evidence sessions are held each year producing over 300 reports, it is a space where MPs, VIPs, government officials, business magnates, representatives of community bodies, and concerned citizens rush to meet others
But on Tuesday night, December 18th, and for four days, the 11th and final showing of this year’s UK tour of the Art of Zhen Shan Ren will take place in this area which has for years been the venue for private exhibitions, viewable only by people who have business in the House.
Andrew George, the MP for the West Cornwall and Isles of Scilly constituency of St Ives, sponsored the exhibition. He said he was “very keen to make sure we extend the breadth of our knowledge.”
He said the exhibition was extremely powerful and that the Houses of Parliament are “the democratic chamber of the United Kingdom [so] we should be able to receive information which perhaps in other chambers in other parts of the world they simply don’t receive.”
He sponsored the showing of the exhibition because he wanted UK lawmakers to “keep our eyes open.”
“I think it will open a lot of people’s eyes because there’s obviously a cultural and a faith issue and also, I think, artistic sensibility as well,” he said.
In different forms, The Art of Zhen Shan Ren has been touring the world since 2004.
The collection, whose title translates as The Art of Truth, Compassion, Forbearance, began when a group of artists decided to use their talents to record the nature of their experiences of the spiritual qigong practice of Falun Dafa.
Most of the painters are Chinese and some had been through the torture and persecution that has been wielded on millions of Falun Gong practitioners in China since 1999.
Owing to its international subject matter, the acceptence of the paintings had to go through an extra process of inspection by the Foreign Office. This took over a year as relations with China are fraught with diplomatic, political, and ethical overviews.
The contributing artists know that many other capable artists are unable to join the exhibition as they are denied basic freedoms afforded to those in the West.
The works on show are predominantly in the Western tradition of representational oil painting. Others are executed in Chinese Watercolour and ink styles, where the essence of the subject is portrayed rather than focusing on surface textures.
Mr George admired the painting Orphan’s Sorrow by Xiqiang Dong. It shows a girl holding a box with the image of her parents on the outside. She has a leather jacket, which was her father’s, over her shoulders. Like many Falun Gong practitioners, her parents have died in a state prison and been incinerated, possibly after having their organs removed.
Mr George said, “It’s extremely powerful, very expressive. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to look at that without looking at all the symbolism in it and without recognising just how poigniant it is.”
He said he felt it a privilege to be associated with the exhibition.
With additional reporting by Simon Gross.
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