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Chinese Artist Gu Wenda Focuses Attention on China’s Toxic Waters

  • 01
  • 11
  • 2016

As China has moved from an agrarian country to an industrialized one, it has grown both its economy and industrial production immensely.  This is great for the country, but along with these improvements has come a serious environmental issue – algae blooms.

During the past decade, China has experienced huge outbursts of algae invasions.  This past summer, Qingdao, a port city of eastern Shandong, experienced an algae invasion of over 58,000 hectares.

Algae problem in China

According to various news outlets and a 2014 report, 28% of rivers are so toxic that they aren’t even suitable for agricultural use. Thirty-eight out of 71 rivers are unsuitable for humans to touch, according to a report by the State Oceanic Administration of China.

A Chinese artist, worried about the continuous contamination and decay of vast bodies of water in certain areas of his country, has developed a way to focus more attention on the critical situation.

Chinese artist Gu Wenda carried out a project involving 1,500 schoolchildren who painted 1,500 square meters of rice paper with algae water. He used a modern twist of traditional “qinglu shanshui” landscape painting, a traditional style of painting that involves completing the artwork with mineral dyes.

Gu Wenda project

The ambitious project aims to bring attention to China’s toxic algae blooms.

“My algae paintings are symbolic of a green China,” Gu says, referring to the color of the algae. “Over the last 30 to 40 years, after senior leader Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door policy, China has vastly grown its economy and international production. This has damaged certain rivers and lakes, causing algae blooms because of chemical run-offs. This is the concern of everybody today.”

By engaging children in this feat, Gu’s hope is to spark a passion for art in the kids. “Contemporary art in China is an import from the West. It is not yet mainstream today,” Gu says.  “So when I have kids participate, the hope is that the future of contemporary art is going to be main stream.”

Gu Wenda project

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