East and West: A diverse picture

Dawn of Stone Bridge

Dawn of Stone Bridge by Professor Cai Kequn

The diverse cultural histories of China and Italy inspired the latest work to be added to Monash University's Prato Centre art collection following the residency of distinguished Chinese oil painter Professor Cai Kequn.

The painting entitled the Dawn of Stone Bridge was featured in Professor Cai's second and final exhibition, 'East and West: Respecting Diversity' during his residency at Prato. 

Professor Cai, Vice-Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Design, Wenzhou University, and one of the directors of the oil-painting association in Zhejiang, spent three months at the Prato Centre. His work explored not only landscapes, but key symbols and cultural attitudes throughout the history of China and Italy.

Director of the Prato Centre, which this year celebrated its tenth anniversary, Professor Loretta Baldassar, thanked Professor Cai for the gifted work.

"Professor Cai's work is not only beautiful but thought-provoking and highly-relevant in our region.

"Prato has the largest population of expatriate Chinese in Italy, many originally from Wenzhou. We are in a unique position to examine the tensions and opportunities existing between the two cultures," Professor Baldassar said.

"The Chinese-Italian relationship has been well-explored at the Centre this year with an international conference on Chinese social and economic integration, and two symposia on Chinese in Prato and the Wenzhouese Diaspora. 

"Professor Cai's work perfectly complemented these academic events and his exhibitions were very well-received in the community. The artist hoped his exhibitions would contribute to cultural development and cross-cultural understanding and I think he achieved these aims." 

Professor Cai is the second artist-in-residence at the Prato Centre, following the late Dr Jo-Anne Duggan in 2010. His residency was an initiative of the agreement between Monash University, the University of Florence, Prato branch, Wenzhou University, and the Province of Prato which aims to promote social inclusion research, greater inclusion of Chinese residents in Prato, and student and staff exchanges.

Professor Baldassar said that despite having no shared language with Centre staff, Professor Cai, was highly productive during his residency. 

"Special thanks to local student Miao Miao Huang, whose internship at the Centre was dedicated to the supporting the artist," Professor Baldassar said. 

Monash University will be producing a catalogue of Professor Cai’s work from his Prato residency.