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‘Remembering the war is a call for peace’, artists say

The war ended long before they were born, but their imaginative power can recreate key moments in China’s history. More than 60 artists from China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts - or ‘CAFA’ - are showcasing depictions of the Chinese spirit that prevailed through eight years of conflict.

As China commemorates the conclusion of World War Two 70 years ago, we are also at the anniversary of the war’s beginning of July 7th, 1937. That was when Japanese troops launched an attack on the Lugou Bridge, just outside Beijing. Marking this date, the National Art Museum of China has opened a new exhibition featuring works of art by CAFA artists. And they drew inspiration by visiting World-War-Two sites across the country.

Fan Di’an, Dean of China Central Academy Of Fine Arts said:”We really want the artists to have some first-hand experience. Of course, there are plenty of photos and videos of WWII, but it’s different when you go back to where the battle was fought, talk to the veterans, and hear the stories they have to tell and learn the history. To remember the history is to pave the way for the future. To remember the war is to call for peace.”

The exhibition showcases more than 60 works, including oil paintings, watercolors, and sculptures. There are, of course, the large-scale events and furious battle scenes, but sometimes it is the small details that speak most poignantly.

“My inspiration was from Zuoquan, a general in the Red Army. I spent a week in Shanxi in one of his command centers. For me, at first, the war seems a bit distant, but when I was there in the very same room where he used to plan attacks, I felt closer to him and to that era. So I’ve chosen to depict the simple items used by the general - his helmet, his water jug, ordinary things that stand as witness to the war. For me, it’s the simplest things that touch people the most,” said Bai Xiaogang, the painter.

Fan Di’an also said: “For China Central Academy of Fine Arts, we’ve always strived to create art that tells good stories, that touches people. And this exhibition is no exception. The artists taking part in the exhibition are mainly young teachers of the academy. It’s really about how the younger generation view history, and passing the baton through art and history.”

The exhibition runs until July 15, and is one of many activities commemorating the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and centered on China’s ‘Victory Day’ coming up on September the third.