The Art of Zhen Shan Ren International Exhibition is continuing its month-long stay in Kingston Museum in the leafy south of London.
The exhibition’s title translates as the Art of Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance, and the work has toured the world since 2004. The paintings are by more than 16 artists, mainly of Chinese ethnicity, trained in the realistic techniques of representational art in oils.
The depiction of many is so exquisite that the paintings look like photographs. They chronicle the creation of a new age, the centre of which is Falun Gong, also know as Falun Dafa, whose core tenets are the Zhen Shan Ren, (Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance) of the title.
Sharon Hartley, Councillor for Tolworth and Hook Rise Ward, Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, said that having attended the exhibition in Cambridge in 2011 she wanted to further the reach of the exhibition into London where it had not been that year.
She found the volunteers, who were Falun Gong practitioners, to be “kind, thoughtful and compassionate as well as passionate about their cause.”
She said, “I felt that Kingston residents would be interested to see both the stunning art and the human rights aspects of this powerful Art Exhibition.
“The visual challenges are, for a lot of people, particularly difficult where there are depictions of death, dying, and, of course, the disturbing organ harvesting, which is heart-wrenching for all.”
The harvesting of organs from live Falun Gong practitioners for sale over the internet has been recorded for several years.
Bloody Harvest by prominent Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas and former Canadian Secretary of State for the Asia-Pacific region David Kilgour is the main document of evidence for the harvesting. The authors were nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize on the strength of the contents reported in the book.
Councillor Hartley said that she found it “particularly easy to recommend that people see this exhibition because the peace and calm present in so many of the paintings is noticeable and often detracts the ‘viewer’ initially and makes the content ‘easier’ to then watch and take in.
“This seems to help us to ‘enjoy’ the art and feel more at ease with looking at the content in-spite of these difficulties.”
She also said, “Some content that might ordinarily be disturbing to the ‘viewer’ is also balanced because of the high standard of materials used and the artists’ talent itself.
“That is the power, in a way, of this particular collection for me and the high standard of the artists themselves [is] quite extraordinary.”
The Kingston Museum is near some of the narrowing, meandering parts of the River Thames with the deer parks of Hampton Court Palace gardens, to the west, and Richmond Park, to the northeast. It houses the Eadweard Muybridge Bequest.
Eadweard Muybridge was a photographer born in Kingston who made his fortune selling landscapes of America to middle class Americans in the late 1800s.
He also pioneered the Zoopraxiscope, a lantern machine with revolving disc shutter and twelve slots, which is considered a fore-runner of cinema.
However, his main legacy is the series of stop-frame photographs that freeze humans and animals in motion and is collected in 781 plates called Animal Locomotion.
Kingston upon Thames
Surrey KT1 2PS
Opening Times: Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays 10am-5pm; Thursdays 10am-7pm
Closed on Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays
For Kingston Museum, click http://www.kingston.gov.uk/museum
Such ingenious invention and chemical photographic fixing is not comparable with the fine dexterity and colour skills of the artists of the Art of Zhen Shen Ren whose techniques lean back to older and more classical times of Greek and Roman antiquity as well as the revival of those forms in the European Renaissance of late 14th, 15th and early 16th centuries.
The word ‘Renaissance’ means ‘rebirth’ and the work of the Art of Zhen Shen Ren is called Neo Renaissance by its makers.
Cllr Hartley said she hoped the exhibition will enable a wider audience to see the high standard and beauty of paintings by Chinese people.
“We have two strong and distinct Chinese communities (and maybe more that I am yet to have contact with) in Kingston who work hard, contribute effortlessly and tirelessly and very rarely get credit for their role in the borough.
“I hope this will also encourage other parts of the Chinese community to hold exhibitions to further celebrate traditional Chinese culture in the future.
“My recommending this exhibition to the Kingston Museum will, I hope, enable residents, students, and visitors in Kingston to read and see the evidence available as part of this exhibition,” she said.
“As with all human rights concerns in a number of countries (including China and the UK) I hope this exhibition will further inspire and support the movements in their [resistance to] future persecution of faith groups.”
She said, “More specifically for this particular faith [Falun Gong] the numerous unexplained transplants recorded since 2001 remain of great concern.”
She gave encouragement to other councils in the UK, saying: “Some councils can be uncomfortable allowing challenging art in their public spaces, as they may not always be comfortable talking to the various groups or country representatives about why they are willing to do so and explain that opening the debate is important.
“In Kingston, our residents are used to being provided with interesting and controversial subject matter particularly as Art and so it is perhaps less uncomfortable for us to allow a varied and diverse range of views/faiths/experiences to be heard/seen.”
For more on the UK exhibition tour, visit http://www.zsr-art.org.uk/ and http://www.kingston.gov.uk/browse/leisure/museum/museum_exhibitions/temporary_exhibitions.htm
Additional reporting by Damian Robin and Miatra Miraftabi
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