In an ancient World Heritage Site in Wales, a modern-day human rights tragedy is being highlighted through art.
Caernarfon Castle, which dates back to 1284, welcomed the Art of Zhen Shan Ren International Exhibition on August 1st. The exhibition is being shown in the castle’s impressive three-turreted Eagle Tower, and has had over 2,000 visitors in its first six days.
The exhibition shows the work of 18 painters who practise Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline with moral principles of truth (“zhen”), compassion (“shan”), and tolerance (“ren”). The practice has been persecuted in China since 1999.
The artists do not shy away from depicting the nature of the Chinese Communist Party’s repression, which includes the removal of organs from practitioners while they are still alive. However, the work is uplifting and includes images of adherents’ everyday lives and depictions of universal themes.
Roy Owen, the Mayor of Caernarfon, and his wife, the Lady Mayoress Margaret Lloyd, officially opened the exhibition. This was the first time the mayor had come across Falun Gong and its brutal persecution in China. He was deeply touched by the artists’ work.
“I have never seen things like that before and the pictures just touched me,” he said. “There were some pictures close to my heart. The way that the artists portrayed what’s happening, it’s just gone straight to my heart.”
The exhibition at Caernarfon Castle not only drew the attention of council officials, but also the interest of artists.
Local artist Bill Swann said, “I think it’s quite an amazing exhibition. It’s very moving and touching to realise things that are depicted in the images still go on today.
“I think from the art’s point of view it’s fantastic; but even more so, seeing the wonderful painting in the way that it’s carried out, it’s almost opposite to what you normally have in a painting of such merit.
“The fact that the painting is so brilliant … so wonderful but it’s … a pretty painting, almost, depicting horrors, which is very unusual to see.”
John Rowlands, a local Welsh abstract painter and a former art teacher, said his favourite paintings were by artists Xiqiang Dong and Xiaoping Chen. “We’ve been talking about Renaissance style, those two obviously have got that talent,” he said. “Some of the others are more illustrative. It doesn’t mean they are worse, just that they are different. And it is very nice to see that people still paint like that.”
The Art of Zhen Shan Ren International Art Exhibition describes itself as “a moving and inspiring collection of works detailing both an inner spiritual life and an outer human rights tragedy”.
The exhibition will be in the Eagle Tower of Caernarfon Castle until August 13th, 2013.
With additional reporting by Damian Robin.