Traveling canvases bring hundreds of stories from ordinary people together

Source:Xinhua Published: 2018/12/3 18:28:39

The Yinchuan Han Meilin Art Museum in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region Photo: IC

Hadina, from Egypt, was surprised to find one of her paintings had been put on display at the Yinchuan Han Meilin Art Museum as part of its "Art Travel" program.

"It's really exciting that visitors from all over the world can see my painting," said Hadina, 32.

The Yinchuan Han Meilin Art Museum, located in the Helan Mountains Rock Art Heritage Park in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, is dedicated to showing the art of Chinese artist Han Meilin. The museum, however, is not limited to only art from this famous master. Over the summer, the museum debuted a new installation work: a four-meter-high, seven-meter-long "picture wall" made of 560 paintings by 560 ordinary people from around the world, including Hadina's.

"This 'picture wall' is a result of our 'Art Travel' program," said Zhang Xu, the program's manager.

"It was designed for ordinary people who have an artistic dream."

Pieces of the puzzle

The program kicked off in September 2017. Authorities divided a large panoramic picture of the museum and the Helan Mountains behind it into 560 pieces and mailed them, along with a picture of the original panoramic view and a small blank canvas, to each participant. The participants were required to paint the canvas within a month. They needed to make sure that the museum's outline was visible after painting the canvases, so that when the pieces were put together, the image of the museum and the mountains would still be visible.

"The participants had various occupations, ages and even nationalities," Zhang said, explaining that the canvases were mailed to almost every corner of the country, and even some foreigners in China, such as Hadina, had signed up.

"The moment I opened the parcel and saw the picture of the museum, I was quite curious what it would be like if my painting were part of it," said Hadina.

"Blue sky, green leaves and red dates are typical in my country, so I drew my homesickness into a date palm."

Months ago, she paid a visit to the museum, and was more than happy to find her painting included in the final "picture wall."

"It's amazing to see hundreds of different paintings combined so perfectly in one picture, and I'm proud that one of them is mine," she said.

Xie Huihua, 23, from South China's Guangdong Province, felt rather thrilled to find that not only her painting but also her pupils' paintings had been included in the "picture wall."

Last year, Xie volunteered to teach art in a primary school in a remote village in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. She said it was hard for local children to get in touch with the outside world, so when told that their paintings would be displayed in a museum thousands of kilometers away, some jumped at the chance.

"Children may lack painting skills, but they are rich in imagination," Xie said.

"Their images, like houses and flowers, were mostly drawn with simple lines, but these things indicate their youth, carefree attitude and passion for color."

Xie also drew a picture depicting her students running and playing under a tree by a river. A distant snow mountain is reflected in the clear water.

"Sometimes I feel that life is all about wonderful encounters, like my experience with those Tibetan kids, as well as theirs with the 'Art Travel' program," said Xie.

Telling stories

Most participants wrote down their stories on the paintings to make themselves understood.

Yang Huichao, a guide in the museum, said she was deeply touched when memorizing the art stories.

"Art is usually regarded as untouchable by ordinary people, but their paintings made art more real," Yang said.

"Some people painted as a prayer for ill family members, to realize a childhood dream, or to show their inner world."

The final "picture wall" has been on display for half a year, attracting many visitors from home and abroad. Some 100 participants have also come to see the exhibition for themselves.

"Some kids were so excited that they jumped to point out their own paintings and kept saying 'Look! This is mine!'" Yang said.

"Introducing 560 paintings to the public may have increased my workload, but I quite enjoy it."

The joy of having their artworks display is not the participants' only reward.

"Currently, we are printing 1,000 albums, and each participant will get one as a way to cherish their contribution," Yang said.

Newspaper headline: Encountering art

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