Art, in all of its forms, is the most powerful medium for human expression–the language of art speaks to everyone. Yet is art powerful enough to bring about change that will benefit humanity?
This question comes to mind when viewing the international exhibition, The Art of Zhen Shan Ren, which showed at The Atrium in Melbourne’s Federation Square. The paintings not only depict the contrast of good and evil but also reveal a deeper look into the human psyche.
Many of the paintings featured in the exhibit reveal the firsthand experiences of the artists, who have witnessed the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China. Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, is a qigong and meditation practice based on the principles of truth, compassion and tolerance–or zhen, shan and ren in Mandarin.
Other paintings in the collection offer a look into the inner beauty and strength of the meditation practice itself, based on the artists’ experiences. Hence the exhibition has been referred to as ‘art that awakens the soul’.
“I have a love of art,” said multimedia artist Briar Stevens, who attended the opening night, “but this sort of art carries a deeper meaning.”
The Art of Zhen Shan Ren exhibition has been featured in over 800 showings in 50 countries around the world. “This gives you an idea of the strength of the exhibition,” said Melbourne coordinator Janine Rankin.
She also spoke about how the featured artists strive to encapsulate truth, compassion and tolerance in their work, and to bring purity of mind and heart into every painting. The exhibition shows how a reverence for heavenly beings and nature is an integral part of man–offering hope for mankind, says Ms Rankin.
The curator of the exhibition, Professor Zhang Kunlun, is a well-known Chinese artist and sculptor. In November 2000, he was sentenced to three years in a Chinese labour camp without trial for peacefully practicing Falun Gong exercises in a public park. In the labour camp, Professor Zhang was tortured by electric shock and other brutal methods.
However, due to international pressure, the Chinese regime released Professor Zhang after he served only two months of his sentence. He now lives in Canada and has put the exhibition together as a means of bringing awareness and change to the lives of others, including those who remain incarcerated in Chinese labour camps.
Visitors to the opening night of the exhibition in Melbourne said they felt the importance of the artists’ message. “I think [the art] tells a story that needs to be told,” said Melbourne resident Peter Cummins.
Local councillor Dot Hayes of Manningham agreed that it is necessary to speak up and was adamant that human rights should be any government’s first priority. “The persecution [in China] is disgusting, and it needs to end. Human rights really do need to be first on the agenda.”
By the end of opening night, visitors shared that the feeling of peace and tranquility emanating from the paintings was what impressed them the most. While many of the paintings depict experiences of brutality and torture, they also conveyed a sense of amazing courage and hope.
“Before coming along we expected to be confronted,” said Manningham Council candidate Michelle Pini. “But it is not until you see the art works that you can feel the emotion coming through from the artists themselves. We found it very moving but also beautiful and very effective.
“The whole world should experience this.”
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