New Chinese Art Revitalises Historic Gloucester
New Chinese Art Revitalises Historic Gloucester

A grade I listed building in the centre of Gloucester recently hosted an exhibition on themes of present day importance, including forced organ harvesting in China.

In the Tiger’s Eye at The Old Bell, above Costa Coffee on Southgate Street, an international exhibition The Art of Zhen Shan Ren opened to the public in the building which is dated at around 1665.

Displayed in seven themes, the exhibition takes the viewer on a journey from the dawn of antiquity to the present era.

Some of the themes’ titles are The Joy of Cultivation and The Buddha’s Infinite Grace but they also pass through contemporary aspects in Persecution and Non-Violent Resistance.

With photographic clarity and powerful engagement, the artworks render the living experiences of Falun Gong practitioners throughout the world.

Falun Gong is a spiritual practice involving slow, meditative exercises and the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance, which blossomed in China in the early nineties, yet which continues to be gruesomely repressed there since 1999.

Some paintings employ the exquisite overlaying of oils, taking their cue from the European Renaissance – a hundred or so years before the building was constructed.

Others are masteries of the silk painting techniques of ancient China, where the essence of a scene or character is depicted with line and watercolour.

As a richly historic past Roman city with a focus on preserving traditions and culture, it’s rather fitting that the artworks which depict the traditional values of China’s 5,000-year civilization and a poignant piece of its history be displayed in Gloucester, in one of the city’s oldest buildings. 

The exhibition was opened on 3rd April by George Haynes, the manager of the unique Beatrix Potter Museum which is housed in the city and references the famous Potter book The Tailor of Gloucester, published in 1902. 

Councillor Paul James, the leader of Gloucester Council attended the private view and attentively studied all artworks.

“I am very pleased the exhibition has come to Gloucester; it’s a very powerful, very impressive exhibition, some wonderful pieces of art. Far more important than that, is that it highlights the very important issue of persecution of practitioners in china, which is a shocking thing that it can take place in the world today,” he said.

Paul James says he will spread the message and hopes for international pressure to stop the persecution.

“We all know that in communist china there are many breaches of human rights but when you’ve got torture, persecution and killings on a large scale, that goes far beyond the issues of human rights. Indeed, the most basic human rights is that of life, and that’s cruelly been taken away from many millions of people in china,” he added.

In his traditional ceremonial outfit and bell in hand, Gloucester’s Town Crier Allen Myatt also gave his voice of support – with his cry of up to 112.8 decibels – after being “deeply moved” by the paintings depicting the persecution and especially of the illegal organ harvesting, in which organs are forcibly taken from prisoners of conscience – mostly Falun Gong practitioners – while they are still alive, without the use of anaesthetics. 

In only one week, 327 Gloucester residents and many more from further afield signed petitions addressed to Gloucester’s Richard Graham MP and to Westminster, urging for laws that will stop any UK entity from being an unknowing accomplice in this heinous crime, especially with the current economic ties with China. According to objective findings, more than 60,000 people have been killed to fuel China’s lucrative organ transplant industry.

Such gross but corroborated information is being presented to a number of venues in the UK including the Scottish Parliament, the English Parliament, and to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

The presenters are the foremost experts on the subject: David Kilgour, former Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific and prosecutor for 10 years in 4 provinces in Canada; David Matas, who has been a refugee, immigration and international human rights lawyer for nearly 40 years; (who together wrote Bloody Harvest: The killing of Falun Gong for their organs); and Ethan Gutmann author of Losing the New China who is completing a history of the repression of Falun Gong by the Chinese Communist Party.

Athough some themes are grave and laden with adversity, all aspects of the exhibition had a transcendent treatment, which left most visitors awakened and sincerely moved, with an even deeper sense of heritage than the venue’s astonishingly old fireplace and wood panelling. 

“Eventually one day, democracy, peace and harmony will prevail”, wrote Christopher Sparks MBE from Gloucester in the visitor’s book.

Leaving a sense of justice and hope for the future, the exhibition now moves to York’s Guildhall, St Helen’s Square YO1 9QL, exhibiting 7-18 June. 

For more information on The Art of Zhen Shan Ren Exhibition global tour see http://en.falunart.org/ and for the UK see http://www.zsr-art.org.uk/ 

With additional reporting by Emiko Dubiel and Roman Dubiel 

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