Small art, big picture

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Antigen kits may be meant for rapid COVID-19 testing, but some individuals have turned the medical objects into works of art.

One such person is Si Xueqin, who has been decorating the back of her test kits with Chinese ink paintings. Images of her work, most of which feature traditional objects such as plum blossoms and bamboo branches, have been widely shared on social media.

Si, a retired physician living in the Dongjing housing community in suburban Shanghai, says she has enjoyed painting since she was young, and picked up the hobby again after her retirement.

The idea to paint on the test kits, she explains, came when she was taking a photo of the result on the kit. Many Shanghai residents are required to self-test at home and declare their results on a government portal.

Si uses regular ink art pigments and a brush to create her works, which include intricate paintings done on single cassettes as well as larger ones done on a canvas comprising multiple cassettes bound together.

"This is just my way of passing time and having fun during the lockdown," she says.

Besides spending her days painting, Si also practices tai chi in the mornings, plays the guzheng (a traditional seven-stringed plucked instrument) in the afternoons and volunteers at the housing community center in Songjiang district, where she helps process residents' requests to go to hospital.

"I have more than 40 years of experience as a physician, so I can advise people about whether they really should go to the hospital during the outbreak or not," she says. "Sometimes it's just a case of people feeling mentally stressed because of the lockdown instead of being physically ill."

Another person who has been painting on her antigen test kits is Chen Xuan, who has been using her 6-year-old daughter's acrylic pigments to create copies of classic works such as Van Gogh's Starry Night and Monet's Sunrise, as well as cartoon figures like Doraemon.

"The idea came from my daughter, who left a few drops of paint on the cassette when she was shaking her brush," Chen tells China News Service. "Those spots she left behind reminded me of the famous paintings by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and that's how I started painting on the cassettes.

"We have celebrated many special occasions with these paintings, such as International Workers' Day, Mother's Day and my mother's birthday," Chen says. "Shanghai is a city of love and romance, even during the pandemic."

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