‘Dahan: Contemporary Monk Painting’ at the Mall Galleries

Born in China in 1967, Dahan remembers how his appetite for painting was so strong as a child when he collected minerals from the nearby Wuyi Mountains to draw and paint on the walls and floors of his home.

But it wasn’t until after he studied and taught as an artist that Dahan felt shaken by the spirit of Buddha, becoming ‘enlightened’ through a visit to an eminent monk Master Yuan Yin. He became a monk in 2002 and his art transformed.  

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The 23 paintings in the exhibition at the Mall Galleries demonstrate the artist’s transition from the preoccupations of a ‘layman of earthly ties’ – which included ‘anxieties, powerlessness and confusion of urban dwellers’ to the Zen paintings of a pastoral hermit.

His Zen painting style of natural environments integrates Chinese and Western landscape aesthetics, but the colours and hues he chooses aim to express emptiness. He draws with Zen, to explain the mountains, rivers, earth, universe and stars, with the hope that it fills viewers’ hearts with Dharma joy.

His most recent work aims to depict the awe he has for Buddhism and guide viewers through their own spiritual search.

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Dahan said: “I wanted to come to the UK to learn and communicate and to see how the British public will react to my work. The UK was one of the first countries to complete the industrial revolution, it is highly-developed, has a world-class education system and a reputation for excellent manners. Britain also has a host of extremely talented artists, such as the Pre-Raphaelites, Gainsborough, Constable, Turner, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and David Hockney. My experience here may also bring inspiration and revelation to my future artistic creations.”

Dahan: Contemporary Monk Painting will be on show until August 26.