February 11, 2005

High Resolution Picture

Paintings by traditional Chinese artist Zhang Cuiying aim to give viewers sense of peace.

A selection of paintings from work she has produced during the last 30 years will be on show from Monday, February 14 at the Momoya Restaurant in Chatswood as part of Chinese New Year celebrations and she has a very personal reason for promoting peace.

Zhang began painting as a child in China, studying with masters of Chinese painting.

"I was taught that painting, like calligraphy, reflects the kind of person you are," she said. "Your painting is a reflection of you character."

She arrived in Australia in 1990 with her young daughter to join her husband, and continued painting for six years until she was struck down with severe arthritis.

"It was so painful that it was impossible for me to paint," she said.

"A year later my husband and I were introduced to a system of exercises and meditation known as Falun Dafa or Falun Gong and in a very short period of time the arthritis disappeared and I was able to paint again."

However, when former Chinese Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin banned the practice of Falun Dafa in 1999, Zhang • by then an Australian citizen • decided to return to China.

"Jiang feared that Falun Dafa would overthrow the communist rule but I wanted people to know that was not its intention and Falun Dafa is good," Zhang said.

She was arrested and imprisoned.

"I was beaten and kicked and my legs were chained together," she said. "I was moved around to different jails.

"In one I was locked up with male prisoners and in another, locked with someone who had a mental illness.

"Temperatures were higher than 40oC and the jails were filthy."

After eight months she was released but today, almost five years later, she still has a skin infection from her time in jail which does not heal.

None of this shows in the tranquility of her paintings.

"Nothing can destroy inner peace," she said. "I want to give people a sense of goodness and beauty."

Zhang has traveled to 100 cities and 40 countries to show her paintings and she has received many awards.

Also, with her lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC, she is sueing JIang Zemin for the inhuman treatment she received in China.

Zhang lives in Bankstown and was named 2004 Citizen of the Year on Australia Day, by Bankstown City council.

She was nominated for excellence in painting, richness in compassion and contribution to human rights and freedom of belief.

The paintings are on view in the Momoya Restaurant until Monday, February 21.