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The arts help repair difficult bilateral ties8k8

洞庭湖决堤 | 8k8 | Updated: 2024-07-22 10:03:11

A group of American students from San Francisco learn to play Chinese drums during their study trip to Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, on Wednesday. [Provided to China Daily]

While many are dismayed by the currently tarnished China-US relationship, artists and community activists are using arts to address estrangement between people in China and the United States through exhibitions, seminars and paintings.

Song Min, president of the US-China Culture & Communication Association, headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, believes in the important role that storytelling through art has been playing in facilitating goodwill and dialogue between people.

Last fall, he led eight American artists to visit Xianning, Hubei province, and joined nine Chinese artists there for an activity — "Chinese in the Eyes of Americans — Telling the Story of Xianning, Hubei with a Paintbrush."

During the week, "artists mingle with each other through paintings and artistic expressions", said Song. "Together, they toured scenic spots, visited schools and museums, checked street vendors, talked to locals and captured moments of significance. They reflected their findings on canvas through brush strokes and colors."

The collective works of Chinese and American artists, 27 pieces in total, were first on display in Xianning before they were shown at an exhibition in late May at a public library in Cupertino, California, which has been in a sister-city relationship with Xianning since 2018.

Sheila Mohan, mayor of Cupertino, said the event will enhance collaboration and exchanges between the two cities through the medium of art and is expected to propel the relationship to a new high.

Olivia Edwards, one of the participating American artists said, "I have loved art all my life and I am further inspired when I visited Xianning. I remember the kindness, hospitality of the Chinese people there. Most importantly, I love the spirit of the people — their vision, their diligence, their hard work, their efforts to preserve the old neighborhood while building the new."

Moreover, Chinese artists impressed her with their "brilliant talents", and "getting to know them is the highlight of this trip", said Edwards, adding that to paint together and communicate through artwork is "something that connects us. I just love them."

Rebecca Jo Alex, another participant, said "There is no better way to see and visit a place than it is being painted. I saw great details of the beauty of China — their people are so warm; cuisines are diverse.

"The best memories are about time with my fellow Chinese artists. Although we don't speak the same language, we do communicate through the universal language of arts."

Dacia Xu, director and co-founder of Qualia Contemporary Art, a gallery in Palo Alto, California, also believes in the enduring power of art exchanges in building relations.

On May 18, Qualia unveiled Beneath the Golden Antlers, its first solo exhibition featuring Chinese contemporary ink artist Yang Jiechang, which runs to late June.

"This is part of our ongoing programmatic focus on contemporary artists from the Asian diaspora," said Xu, adding that her gallery continues to showcase stellar artworks, with influences and elements from different cultures and genres.

"To underpin understandings between peoples through the platform of art is our mission," she said.

Xu noted that Yang's exhibition highlights his recent representations of animals.

"While he works in a variety of media, such as painting, sculpture, installation, performance and video, Yang is best known for his mastery of traditional Chinese media — brush and ink painting, meticulous color painting and calligraphy. This is a legacy and (Chinese) cultural tradition central to his work."

Yang, a Cantonese-speaking native, was born and raised in Foshan, Guangdong province, where he inherited his conservative, reserved family values. He then went to the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 1982, where four years of academic training bolstered his professional pursuits.

Since 1988, Yang has lived in Paris and Heidelberg, Germany, where he has honed his drawing skills and achieved international recognition.

"Isn't Yang's story interesting?" Xu said, adding that to orchestrate an exhibition such as this is also to build a bridge, to tell a story of human interest.

"We are committed to building lasting relationships with artists, collectors, curators and scholars, nationally and internationally," she said.

The grassroots efforts, which may seem trivial at first, are like the dripping water that accumulates strength that ultimately can penetrate boulders, said Song.

On June 10, Song led another delegation of 12 American teenagers and young adults on a journey of exploration in Hubei province. "This time, they will use cameras and painting brushes to capture and record anything they deem enticing, eye-opening or just different from that in the United States," he said.

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