Exhibition highlights China's rich sculpture heritage
A sculpture exhibition featuring works by artists across China is underway at the China Craft and Art Museum until Sunday. The pieces on display are made with a variety of materials and highlight the diversity of China’s folk sculpture tradition.
Along with recognized masters, the exhibition includes pieces by young artists who integrate tradition with modern aesthetics. Some 18 sculptors also donated their showcased works to the museum in an effort to raise public awareness about protecting traditional craft skills.
Pieces on display include examples of Qingtian-style stone sculpture, named after Qingtian County in east China’s Zhejiang Province where this style originated. Qingtian-style sculptures are known for colorful hues and their depictions of landscapes, pastoral scenes, legends and flowers.
Wooden sculptures account for the majority of the exhibit, with most pieces made from bamboo root and huangyang (boxwood). Here, works from artists Yang Ming, Xu Yunfeng and He Lianchao represent the Dongyang School, a woodcarving school which also emerged in Zhejiang.
Vivid figures and a glossy finishes characterize these sculptures. Traditionally, Buddhist characters and immortals were major subjects of the Dongyang craftsmen. However, present-day sculptures take ordinary life scenes, elegant women, animals and flowers as their subject matter.
Such pieces are also valued because of the scarcity of huangyang. The trees are rare in Zhejiang and only those older than 50 years old are suitable for carving.
Traditionally, people put boxwood sculptures in their homes to bring good luck. Now they are also valued for their artistic and design merits.
The craft of bamboo-root sculpture historically thrived in Dongyang, Huangshan in Anhui Province and also Xiangshan County in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province. Craftsmen have long taken advantage of the roots’ various forms and shapes to create exquisite pieces which are meant to integrate natural beauty with human enginuity.
One exhibited bamboo-root sculpture is themed around the famed Chinese novel “Journey to the West.” Its fibrous structure was transformed into delicate “trees,” while the root knots were turned into “clouds” of the scene.
The exhibition also showcases another wood sculpture genre from Hainan Province. The tropical island boasts an abundance of tree varieties, including huanghuali and poleimu which are highly prized by furniture makers and sculptors. Huanghuali is known as padauk in Western countries and valued for toughness, stability in use and decorativeness, most having a reddish wood
Figurines carved with poleimu are displayed at the exhibition. The wood is highly valued for its durability and has been used to build ships and homes for the wealth, in addition to a variety of craft objects.
Today, Hainan Province has banned cutting of wild poleimu.
Ink stones also get their due at the exhibition. These elegantly designed mortars were traditionally used for grinding and storing ink. Today, as in the centuries past, they are popular with art connoisseurs. One notable ink stone on display includes a Shexian-style piece, named after Shexian County in Anhui Province, engraved with a dynamic tidal pattern.
There are a variety of metal sculptures on view too, made with materials such as bronze, silver, copper and gold. Some of these are free-standing sculptures, some are framed like paintings, and some are covered by a glossy patina. Stand-out pieces include two silver pots carved with auspicious motif.
Date: Through April 14
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