The Saints Wear White
February 2020 - Duyi Han designs a chapel that pays tribute to coronavirus medical workers.
The project sees the interior walls and ceilings of a church in China’s Hubei province – where the epidemic began – transformed into a large mural depicting figures dressed in white decontamination suits.
The project takes inspiration from the historic style of church painting and fresco. However, instead of illustrating biblical scenes of saints or deities, the mural shows the everyday medical workers who are selflessly putting themselves at the frontline of the virus, covered by masks, gloves and full-body suits.
The work pays homage to the anonymous doctors and nurses who are crucial in aiding those infected. They risk their own lives and work long shifts, often having to skip meals and sleep on the hospital floor. These medical professionals are those whom people rely on and put their faith in. They are the heroes and saints during the time of a crisis. With recent reports of mistreatment and improvable work conditions of medical professionals in China, these people deserve higher regard.
As an art form, fresco painting is powerful in invoking the emotion of respect and sublimity. In Hubei Province and especially Wuhan, Western influence brought in churches and church art starting from the 19th century. In this context, Duyi Han chooses to use this religious architectural and art form to celebrate and advocate for secular life-savers. To Western and global viewers, a church in China may challenge stereotypical cultural assumptions – it guides people to focus more on the essential content (medical workers) and not the country itself as an exotic entity, especially at a time when the disease invokes racism and xenophobia. The work may help people around the world feel emotionally touched in a common way and unite together. Therefore, it is both locally relevant and globally understandable.
This work has appeared or been featured on numerous platforms: The New York Times, Forbes, CNN, Vice, Marie Claire, Vogue, Adobe, Bienal São Paulo, Elle, MSN, Architectural Digest, Art Tribune, Designboom, Courrier International, 1st Look, Qiio Magazin, The National UAE, The Indian Express, Le Quotidien de l'Art, iFeng, among others.