Infinite Creativity in Art
12/1/2024 - 16/3/2024
(Co-organised by the Labour and Welfare Bureau, the Social Welfare Department and the Arts Development Fund for Persons with Disabilities and Sun Museum)
Organised in collaborative with the Labour and Welfare Bureau, the Social Welfare Department and the Arts Development Fund for Persons with Disabilities, the exhibition features around 200 artworks from 17 charities.
These exhibits are created by disabled persons which include children and the elderly from various backgrounds. Apart from paintings in different medium such as sketch, watercolour, poster colour and ink, on display are also pottery and sculpture, as well as handicrafts like weaving, woodcraft and leather.
As a meaningful activity to promote inclusive community, the exhibition not only shows the direction of persons with disabilities in art, but also reveals their art potential in creating impressive works.
Introducing the concept of “unity of heaven and humanity”, the ancient Chinese championed living in accordance with the perceptual heaven. They emphasised the importance of health care and environmental protection; thus “heaven” here refers to the natural environment. The traditional value of Confucianism adheres to the belief that a healthy person living at peace is in harmony with heaven.
Aiming to maintain good health and extend longevity shy from illnesses, our ancestors had started constructing hospitals since the Tang dynasty (618-907). Hospitals were initially named “Futian Hospital” in the Song dynasty (960-1279) because they were government-run charitable institutions that mainly nursed the elderly and beggars. With 50 wards per hospital, patients were placed based on their conditions for infection prevention and control, and they were monitored with medical records. Towards the end of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), these hospitals for helping the poor and treating the ill had expanded all over the country.
The historic way of governing a country was to establish a medical system which aided the poor and protected the civilians. Only when the people were strong and healthy enough were they able to develop agriculture to sustain their livelihood.
Though ancient medicine was divided into multiple specialised disciplines, psychiatry was not considered one of them. However, other than hospital chief executive officers who stemmed from the imperial medical examination system, there were also many presiding officers who were Daoist priests or Buddhist monks. Equipped with great medical skills, these practitioners combined the essence of the three schools of Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism to promote adaptability, flexibility, and purification of one’s mind; to achieve harmony with nature and humanity. This kind of psychological counselling was particularly helpful for patients living with mental health disabilities, cognitive disabilities, or visual and hearing impairments.
Some patients in the past living with mental and physical disturbances may often have different perceptions of life and have tendencies to be more straight forward with unconventional and self-centred behaviours. Looking at some of the ancient Chinese artists for instance, they may not have had such impairments, but for those who did exhibit similar tendencies, they developed extraordinary artistic styles and attained exceptional achievements. Among them, Zhang Xu (675-750) and Haui Su (725-785), famous cursive writers of the Tang dynasty, were described as “subversive” and “crazy”. Good at depicting figures with simple brushwork, Song painter Liang Kai (1140-1210) was called a “madman”. Xu Wei (1521-1593) of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) was famous for painting flowers expressively. He was once considered mentally disturbed, but his art greatly influenced outstanding succeeding artists including Shi Tao (1642-1707), Bada Shanren (1626-1705), and Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).
Today, with advanced medical facilities, people living with disabilities are well taken care of by the Government and other charitable organisations. In ancient times, artists could only rely on themselves to create distinguished artwork. Nowadays however, people can better balance their emotions through various means of art creation. From learning to paint to doing arts and crafts, people can develop their hobby in art while becoming more mentally focused.
The arts and crafts created by people living with disabilities are not just satisfying. These artists are skilled in making items for daily life using clay, fabric, and leather as well as conveying realistic themes in their art pieces through building sculptures, weaving, dyeing, and making collages.
As for painting, people living with disabilities have expectedly yet unexpectedly achieved above and beyond. They have mastered perspective, the use of contrasting light and dark colours, and the placement of long and short lines to depict layers and depths of a scene; outcomes that were perhaps aided by instructors.
The graphics and patterns of their artworks are full of surprises. Not only can these artists create astonishing compositions with vibrant colours, but they can also highlight themes and express their genuine feelings, drawing much attention from their audiences.
Art masters in the past attained outstanding accomplishments because of their exceptional talents and personalities. Such examples are sadly rare. Nowadays, the advancement in medical treatments and improvements of our social welfare offer diversified assistance for patients and people living with disabilities from all walks of life. Art, as a form of treatment, is especially helpful and beneficial for physical and mental rehabilitations. There is much anticipation for people living with disabilities to attain even higher artistic achievements.
May all of us have the chance to better understand and learn about art. May art continue to bring all of us together and revitalise our lives with colours.
YEUNG Chun Tong
Director, Sun Museum
Infinite Creativity in Art
2024, paperback, Chinese/English, 224 pages, 20 x 26 cm
A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue featuring around 200 artworks created by 200 artists .