Art­works cap­ture strug­gles of Red Army in Long March

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By LIN QI linqi@chi­

The high-al­ti­tude Ruo­er­gai Grass­land in north­ern Sichuan prov­ince at­tracts tourists to­day for pic­turesque wet­lands and di­verse wildlife. More than 80 years ago, how­ever, the scene was less tran­quil — the Red Army fight­ing against harsh ter­rain and weather dur­ing the Long March, a military re­treat the Com­mu­nist Party of China con­ducted from 1934-36.

His­tor­i­cal records show the grass­land claimed some 10,000 Red Army sol­diers, who died of ill­ness, star­va­tion, cold­ness and other rea­sons.

Last Septem­ber, Zhang Lu­jiang, a pro­fes­sor of Bei­jing’s Cen­tral Acad­emy of Fine Arts, and a team of young teach­ers and stu­dents, vis­ited Red Army sites in the area. They spent two weeks re­trac­ing the route that Red Army sol­diers un­der­took to sur­vive the hos­tile nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment while find­ing a gate­way to the north to evade the Kuom­intang army’s pur­suit.

Zhang’s team re­turned to Bei­jing’s stu­dios and painted a group of oil can­vases, ti­tled Red Army’s Recipes, which are now on show at a grand ex­hi­bi­tion at the cap­i­tal city’s If you go

9 am-5 pm, closed on Mon­days, through Jan 4. 1 Wusi Street, Dongcheng district, Bei­jing. 010-6400-1476.

Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China.

Art Rally of the Long March shows dozens of art­works in var­i­ous medi­ums, in­clud­ing paint­ings, sculp­tures, an­i­ma­tions, videos and de­signs, which artists at the CAFA pro­duced over the past year to rein­ter­pret the spirit of the Long March.

Teach­ers and stu­dents worked in groups to re­trace some of the routes.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is the lat­est of sev­eral shows since last year to mark the 80th an­niver­sary of the com­ple­tion of Long March.

It pro­vides view­ers novel per­spec­tives and ex­pe­ri­ences to re­flect what Red Army sol­diers en­dured to re­al­ize their revo­lu­tion­ary ideals.

Red Army’s Recipes fea­ture eight main cat­e­gories of food that sus­tained the life of sol­diers: grass roots, tree bark, wild herbs, wild fruits, fun­gus, leather belts, high­land bar­ley and lit­tle meat. Jour­neyandFoot­prints, NewLifeon­theLongMarch,

“Lack of food was, of course, most dif­fi­cult for the Red Army when trekking on the plateau. They re­lied heav­ily on grass roots and chew­ing tree bark helped to ease their de­sire to eat,” says Zhang. “Many died of poi­sonous wild herbs, fruits and fun­gus.”

He says the Red Army bought high­land bar­ley from lo­cal Ti­betans and lamas, and af­ter they ran out of money, they left debt notes for loans of grains that are pre­served to­day at lo­cal mu­se­ums.

He says his team tried to cook food in the wild as the Red Army did. The rice couldn’t be cooked well be­cause of the ter­ri­ble weather and at­mo­spheric pres­sure

in high-al­ti­tude ar­eas.

“I tried a kind of car­rot that Red Army sol­diers once picked to eat. Within sec­onds, I felt great pain in my throat. Lo­cal Ti­betans say only pigs eat the car­rots,” he says.

“These paint­ings are not reg­u­lar still lifes pro­duced in class­rooms. We in­tend to re­call those mem­o­rable, ex­traor­di­nary years.”

Fan Di’an, pres­i­dent of the CAFA, says the ex­hi­bi­tion is also rel­e­vant to the present and the fu­ture, and the spirit of Long March as a core of na­tional morale should rally gen­er­a­tions of artists.

The ex­hi­bi­tion there­fore in­cor­po­rates a cross-dis­ci­plinary per­spec­tive.

Stu­dents from the fash­ion de­sign depart­ment were in­spired by the Red Army’s uni­forms and the at­tire of eth­nic groups liv­ing along the Long March routes to cre­ate the works.

Vis­i­tors put on hel­mets, and vir­tual-re­al­ity tech­nolo­gies are ap­plied to bring the au­di­ence into a fight­ing scene in which sol­diers ad­vance on a chain bridge amid in­tense fire.

A group of eight peo­ple from the art ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment sent paint­ing tools and books to pri­mary schools in Sichuan’s Aba Ti­betan and Qiang au­tonomous pre­fec­ture. They taught stu­dents there to paint sto­ries of the Red Army. They brought back some 100 paint­ings that are also on show at the cur­rent ex­hi­bi­tion, jux­ta­posed with another 100 paint­ings by Bei­jing pri­mary school stu­dents.

Stu­dents from the ex­per­i­men­tal art depart­ment have an­i­mated some of these paint­ings, and turned them into a 15-minute-long video work and nine in­stal­la­tions.

Song Xiewei, the ex­hi­bi­tion’s cu­ra­tor and a pro­fes­sor of the CAFA’s ur­ban de­sign depart­ment, says the rich ex­pe­ri­ences and nar­ra­tive fea­ture of this ex­hi­bi­tion show how to en­gage mod­ern-day view­ers to cher­ish the her­itage of the Long March.


an art­work by a group of stu­dents from the Cen­tral Acad­emy of Fine Arts. oil on can­vas by Hu Jiancheng.

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