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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Art exhibit displays courage Persecution meets principle in Victoria

Victoria News: March 12, 2008

Unmovable by Amy Fan is one of the pieces being shown at the Truth Compassion Tolerance Arts Exhibition in the Michele Pujol Room in the Student Union Building at the University of Victoria from March 18 to 19.

by Joan Quain

A group of visual artists, some of whom have personally experienced the wrath of the Chinese communist regime, have created a collection of works to be displayed in an upcoming exhibit at the University of Victoria March 18-19.

For 66-year-old art professor Kunlun Zhang, the Truth Compassion Tolerance Arts Exhibition has special meaning as he has experienced much of the anguish and hope depicted in the works.

A Canadian citizen who once taught at McGill University, Zhang was imprisoned and tortured in China in 2001 for his practise of Falun Gong, a meditation and spiritual discipline that has been outlawed and its adherents brutally persecuted in China since 1999.

Luckily Zhang was an Amnesty International “Prisoner of Conscience” and after international pressure won his release, he joined forces with over 20 other artists to give artistic expression to the abuse and suffering many face in China.

The pieces in the exhibit, which has been shown in cities around the world, are divided into five categories: Harmony, Enlightenment, Adversity, Courage and Justice.

The works convey both the beauty of the practice of Falun Gong and the horror of the persecution. In a classical style, the artists use mostly traditional methods and techniques to render life-like and illuminated paintings.

“There is an incredible courage and resolve captured in these works,” said Julia Xu, a coordinator of the New York exhibit when it was shown there.

“It’s hard not to be moved by what these people have faced and endured. It’s incredibly tragic, but equally inspiring,” she said.

One of the artists featured in the exhibit is Chen Xiaoping, the arts director of the Community Arts Council in Richmond. Xiaoping has received many awards in both China and the U.S. In 1998 she was named an Outstanding Artist by the governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Both Zhang and Ottawa art teacher Kathy Gillis were featured in Beyond the Red Wall, a November CBC documentary about the plight of Falun Gong in China. They stated in the documentary that they now use their art to raise awareness about human rights abuses in China.

Gillis’ work is included in collections such as those of the Canada Council Art Bank, the Mexican embassy, the City of Ottawa, Carleton University, University of Ottawa and others. Her solo exhibitions have been primarily installations, land art or large-scale paintings.

The Art of Truth Compassion Tolerance, the second phase of the Truth Compassion Tolerance Arts Exhibition which brings together the work of 18 artists, is currently being displayed at venues in the United States.

The Truth Compassion Tolerance Arts Exhibition will take place in the Michele Pujol Room in the Student Union Building at the University of Victoria March 18-19 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free.

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