Select Page

“Under the Mask of Us”: He Kun’s Response to the Coronavirus

This week, we are going to talk about our artist He Kun’s latest ink painting series, titled “Under the Mask of Us”. This collection of work relates to the impact of the coronavirus on China and we are sharing as part of our ongoing project at present: “Art for Wuhan, China”.

1: “Under the Mask of Us”

Image: “We, They, 33cm x 33cm, ink painting on Xuan paper

You can’t see full faces under the masks, only sadness, kindness, and confident eyes. Masks cover us, all of the beautiful faces; who are you, who is she? These are no longer important questions. These are the ordinary, normal people under the masks, those of us who have taken on the responsibility to save lives.

This is a group of portraits depicting medical staff specifically. The iInk paintings show us close-ups of people’s faces during this special period – people with masks. Masks are the only defence for them to fight this invisible virus; they know the risk is high, but they have chosen to help and save lives, despite whatever the cost may be to them. 

In this painting from the series shown above, titled “We, They”, the strong black lines convey the contour of head and torso, the precise, free brushstrokes showing the artist’s confidence and how he incorporates the art of calligraphy into his painting. Through those strong outlines, he conveys the determination from our nurses and doctors. The changes in the tones of grey create beautiful texture in the hat, mask, and clothes. The background of each of these paintings is white, which symbolises that these medical professionals are our “White Angels”.

We always say that human eyes are the window to our soul; in each of He Kun’s portraits, the doctors and nurses wear a hat, mask, and hospital uniform. Only their eyes are naked in front of viewers. Can you see their sadness, kindness, hope, or hopelessness? Have they evoked your strongest emotion inside you? Have you felt that we are all connected, and are all experiencing this together?

Click to read more about He Kun’s work in our previous blog.

Narrative Art

Here is another set of artworks created by our artist He Kun, which relate to the impact of the coronavirus on China; this is part of our ongoing project at present – “Art for Wuhan, China”.

Words by He Kun, edited by ArtChina. 

The Coronavirus ravaging our world is modern humanity’s common disaster; fighting against the virus is not only for China and all of those impacted across the globe, but also for the dignity of humanity.

Whenever people are in the face of disaster, each one finds his or her own way to fight. As an artist, one of the best ways to fight is to record, in the familiar form of my work where each line signifies an emotion, what is happening during this time in our lives.

The works that I’ve done so far are very much a record of the Coronavirus outbreak from the beginning.

For example, in “The Silent Spring”, the Spring Festival should be lively and decorated, but the town I depicted was very quiet. The small town of Simao was not a centre of the epidemic area; the city was less severely impacted, so the artwork was more relaxing.

The “We Are Fighting” theme is naturally present in artwork depicting those health workers on the frontline  working against virus.

“Don’t Go Out This Spring” painted a picture of the people who have been quarantined at home.

These works convene our emotions and actions: fighting, helpless, sadness, promising, and hope for the future.

The current paintings in this collection are sizes 137cm x 68cm, 198cm x 98cm, up to 365cm x 147cm. I will soon complete two new works in the largest size, before painting several smaller size portraits of medical staff and the public during this period.

The above video is a recording by the artist showing the working progress of his large painting, ‘Angel with Us’.

As the coronavirus is continuing to spread globally, we hope we can learn from this experience which has cost so many lives in China already; we hope we will overcome this disease soon and restore harmony in our lives again.

More Art for the People of Wuhan, China

February 10 was the first day back to work in many places outside of Hubei, China. At least hundreds of millions of people have either started working from home or walked into factories or offices wearing masks. It’s a tough choice, and all of us can only choose the relative balance between health and life. On the first day back to work, still hundreds of millions of people are also absent; it is the most profound collective practice for the Chinese people. A new case of pneumonia in Wuhan has turned into a disaster. It is close to all of our hearts and has made this Spring Festival holiday feel especially long.

In the book The Wandering Earth author Liu Cixin wrote: “At first, no one cared. It was nothing more than a mountain fire, a drought, the extinction of a species, the disappearance of a city. Until this disaster touches everyone.”

A question posed online to the Chinese people: “How did you feel on the first day returning to work with this ongoing coronavirus epidemic?”

The most poignant answer was: “There has never been a time, like now, when I have felt I had been too perfunctory in my life. In the future I will work hard to earn money, work, and live seriously.”

Yes, only when the world is quiet, can you hear your own heartbeat.

Only through life or death and sudden changes can you realise the truth of life.

After almost 20 days at home, when the day is suddenly paused, will made you understand life more than ever.

From today on, at least hundreds of millions of people who have not lived seriously before are destined to “disappear” or “missing”.

And you, what is your biggest feeling?

The coronavirus epidemic has not only changed the way society functions; it has changed everyone’s attitude toward the world.

If we say the disaster is inevitable, well, the past 20 days or so have shown the most profound collective practice from the Chinese people.

The artworks below were created by ArtChina artists Yang Qi, Tang Chenghua, and Hou Weiguo in reaction to the epidemic:

Image: Kindheartedness”, oil painting by Yang Qi

Image: Spring is coming”, oil on canvas, 80cm x200cm, by Tang Chenghua

Image: We are all One”, print by Hou Weiguo

We invite all artists who are using their artwork as an outlet for critical reflection or portrayal of the ongoing crisis surrounding the coronavirus to submit work to be included in our series. Please contact Aimin Liu at aimin@artchinauk.com.

Art for Wuhan, China: He Kun’s Journal

This week, our blog will show a watercolour painting diary series by one of our Chinese artists, He Kun. He started this series from the first day of Chinese year with the intention of recording how did the coronavirus has impacted our daily lives especially during this special period of time that is the new year for every family in China in 2020.

This painting above was created on the first day of the Chinese New Year. It is titled “Wish Happy New Year”.

The setting is the Yunnan province, located in Southern China, where warm weather and brightly coloured plants bloom throughout the entire year. In this painting, the plum tree blossoms with beautiful pink flowers in the background. You can imagine birds chipping, jumping on the ground, signifying that spring is here. But in the middle, two men wear masks, glasses, hats, and long coats; they remain distanced from one another but great each other hello with their hands.

Usually we will shake hands, and pat each other’s backs as a greeting, wishing one another a good year ahead, and we exchange gifts.

On the second day, He Kun painted “Go out for a walk”, shown below.

Now, it is not as simple as before to go out for a walk with your do. Before, you only needed to put on the collar and lead, and off you go. But now, you need to cover yourself from head to toe, just like the person depicted in He Kun’s image. Normally, this park would be such a relaxing place to take a dog for a walk, and now that has become a dangerous task. You can’t even dare to take a deep breath outside without wearing a mask! Flowers are still blooming, birds are still singing, the sun is still shining, but you can’t enjoy it; there is no relaxing outdoors as the outbreak of the coronavirus has changed every single aspect of our daily lives.

How can this have happened to us? Why? Where did the coronavirus come from? When did the coronavirus start to spread to humans? How long is this going to last? How many people will die from this sudden tragedy before it’s under control? These are the questions people in China who are suffering are asking, and others around the world too.

If you have created artwork relating to the impact of the coronavirus on China or the wider world, please contact us; we would love to share your work.