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Words by Aimin Liu

The Decameron, by the 14th century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio, is considered a masterpiece of classical early Italian prose. The book is a collection of 100 tales told by a group of seven young women and the three young men sheltering in a secluded villa just outside of Florence to escape the Black Death, which was afflicting the city. 

Today, in Wuhan, China, the centre of the outbreak of the coronavirus, the whole city has been blocked out from outside world. People there have to stay home most of time. Even in the less affected cities, people are still be suggested to stay home, not to go out unless for food or medicine.

Artists often use their creativity to reflect on the environment and society where they live, to evoke their thoughts and emotions. They are always the pioneers in this sense and one of the forces that help to move our civilisation forwards. Many masterpieces in art were born during hardships in human history. Would now be the chance for our Chinese artists to create some masterpiece while the illness challenges our virtue, humility, unity?

He Kun, who lives in Yunan, 2,000km away from Wuhan, recently has created a series of paintings which relate to the people in Wuhan.

In his painting “Save the Child”, a father is carrying his son on his back on the left, and the mother is portrayed on the right. One of her hands caresses the child’s back, and in her other hand, she is carrying a bag which suggests some belongings prepared in a rush for the hospital. The boy’s right arm is hanging over his dad’s left shoulder feebly. His eyes are closed, scowling eyebrows suggestive of his suffering. From those sections of the painting shown below, you can see the eyes of the both parents which deeply reveal their emotions: sad, anxious, full of worry, etc. The whole family are wearing masks. There is much uncertainty, but they hope to save the child; that is their only wish.

On the left side, artist He Kun wrote: “There were happy families, but coronavirus destroyed them.”   

See more work from Chinese artist He Kun on our website.