Olympic strokes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am


'Harmony during development' might sound like a slogan heard during a National People's Congress meeting, but it is, in fact, the central theme of an art exhibition featuring the work of Chinese painters being staged during the London Olympics.

With the Olympics underway, more than 200 Chinese artists are due to arrive at London's Heathrow Airport tomorrow from Beijing for the exhibition at the Barbican Centre. Organised by the China Society for the Promotion of Cultural and Art Development, a semi-official organisation under the Ministry of Culture, the week-long 'Creative Cities Collection Fine Arts Exhibition' is scheduled to open on Tuesday and will feature 300 works by contemporary artists from the mainland and nearly as many pieces by other artists.

A highlight of the exhibition is a 10- metre scroll by Beijing-based Chinese-American artist Zhao Zhunwang. Titled London, Beijing and the Olympics, the ink painting portrays the two cities connected by an azure sea. As well as icons such as the Great Wall and the River Thames, the painting depicts the two host cities' Olympic venues.

Bi Jianxun, from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts and one of the exhibition's curators, says the theme 'has been embodied in the principle of progress and peace during the Olympics, and is in line with China's traditional philosophy of balance, unity and harmony'.

Through the exhibition, the curator says, the basic principles of painting will be revived. 'Since early last century, there have been claims that painting is dead, and since then it has become the subject of constant revolution,' Bi says. 'We believe the revolution is coming to an end and predict a return to artistic traditions is imminent.'

A preliminary exhibition kicked off in Beijing on July 13 with a lavish opening ceremony attended by cultural officials and the media. Although none of the works being exhibited in London were on display, guests were shown a collection of other pieces by the participating artists. Critics complained that the quality of the works was not as good as that of the London show.

Still, just like with a marathon event in the Olympics, the Chinese artists are in it for the long haul, and when they touch down tomorrow, it will signify that they have truly arrived - in London, at least.