Art For Peace – When The West Meets The East

One day, my friend Yiling Li – the President of the UCT INT’L Culture Development. Inc.- invited me over to meet her father, who was visiting her in New York. Of course, I knew about Mr. Li Guodong as a famous Chinese calligrapher, whose works were repeatedly exhibited at the UN and where he held 106 lectures and expositions. His works are exhibited in many famous museums of the world. Only in the collections of presidents, prime ministers, ministers and ambassadors are more than 200 of his works.

But it turned out that calligraphy is his hobby, if you can call in that way his works of world fame, and which he has been doing for 73 years. His main specialty is traditional Chinese medicine, which he has been practicing for many decades and the Guodong dynasty has been engaged in this for more than 200 years. A kind-hearted man, he helped many patients around the world to get rid of pain and illness.

During his career, he received dozens of awards and prizes, including an award for “Achievements in life”, an award for “An outstanding artist”, an award for “An outstanding personality”, the title of “Ambassador of peace” and an award “Art for Peace.”

Calligraphy occupies a worthy place in the field of traditional art of China. It is not only a means of communication, but also a means of expressing the inner world of a person. Chinese calligraphy is a philosophy. In my paintings, I also set myself the goal of uncovering the inner world and a person’s impressions of life.
Chinese calligraphy is a special phenomenon in the culture of China, which is an art rather than a way to transfer information. It has several millennia. Today, calligraphy is still often practiced as a hobby.

This is consonant with the themes that I had to study when writing my dissertation on the interaction of signs of different semiotic systems in a speech flow. My main specialty is psycholinguistics. Probably, it was precisely the proximity of professional and spiritual interests, the ability to think in the same direction with Professor Guodong and led to the fact that after a three-year break I again took brushes and paints in my hands. And we started.

Dr. LI Goudong and Dr. Nataliya Ivashyna

The first thing that caught my eye on the wall of my friend Yiling’s apartment was a stunningly elegant hieroglyph meaning “happiness.” Thus, the first cycle of works entitled “Happiness” was created, where our paintings were still separate – separately painting and separately calligraphy.

Photos of the cycle “Happiness”

After that the idea was born of combining in one canvas the charm of Chinese calligraphy and my Western artistic manner. In the process of drawing, Mr. Li Guodong first wrote Chinese calligraphy on the “xuanzhi” – a special type of high-quality rice paper made specifically for Chinese painting and calligraphy – and then I applied my pictorial text. And we created a cycle entitled “Seasons of life” – Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, each of them is full of hope and has its own philosophy. Spring is a time of hopes and dreams; Summer is the time for creation, sowing, energy; Autumn is the best part of our life – it’s time to gather the fruits of all that is done, it is a red carpet of glory; Winter is a time of thinking about the accomplished cycle and the desire to share at least a small particle of heat with those whom we meet on our way, from which winter becomes much warmer.

Photos of the cycle “Seasons of life”





Then the idea appeared to create canvases dedicated to the United Nations 17 Goals of the Sustainable Development of Humanity. Idea was inspired by the exhibition “Art for Peace”, which was held at the UN headquarters on February 8, 2019 where a 108-meter scroll of calligraphy of the UN Charter by Professor Guiding was displayed. It took him five years to create this chef-d’oeuvre. This masterpiece stunned the audience and caused a sensation. Professor Li Guodung has repeatedly stated that art has no boundaries and that as a citizen of the world he would devote the rest of his life to promoting the idea of “Art for Peace” and the goals of the United Nations in the field of sustainable development.
The pictorial form of our joint work on 17 Goals arrived from the following part of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres address to the General Assembly in September 2017: “Our world is in trouble. People are hurting and angry. They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing. The global economy is increasingly integrated, but our sense of global community may be disintegrating. Societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide. We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace.”

For me and Professor Guodong it is obvious that the world order is seriously unbalanced, and the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals are precisely to bring our world into balance and harmony. We have come to understanding that the ancient Chinese symbols Yin and Yang accurately express balance and harmony, unity of opposites. Thus, 17 paintings appeared depicting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as a tool to assemble parts of our dismantled world into the harmony of Yin and Yang.

Photo of the cycle “17 goals”

UN 13 Goals

UN 14 Goals

UN 17 Goals

Working together with the professor brought me back to life, creativity, joy, positive emotions. And, most importantly, to myself.
Ahead we have plans with Professor Li Guodong to hold joint exhibitions in the UN, Ukraine and China.

Thus, in our joint work, the traditions of the East and the West meet with each other.

Nataliya Ivashyna