A life shad­owed and shaped by an­cient war­riors

China Daily (Canada) - - PEOPLE - By YAN DONGJIE

yan­dongjie@chi­nadaily.com.cn

For Daniel Krause, China’s Ter­ra­cotta War­riors are not only one of the world’s great­est pieces of art, they also em­body his great­est at­tach­ment to the coun­try.

The Amer­i­can artist has made dozens of bronze sculp­tures of an­cient Chi­nese sol­diers that were in­spired by the Ter­ra­cotta War­riors of the Qin Dy­nasty (221-206 BC) in Xi’an, Shaanxi prov­ince, but they couldn’t be any more dif­fer­ent to the orig­i­nals. All have their torso and body parts re­ar­ranged, some with arms un­der their feet, some with gap­ing spa­ces where their hearts should be.

Ex­plain­ing this bold artis­tic stroke, Krause said: “When peo­ple look at his­tory from spe­cific per­spec­tives, they un­der­stand it in ways that are very dif­fer­ent from the orig­i­nal idea, and that’s the artis­tic side I see.”

Ev­ery­thing around him in­flu­ences his sculp­tures, he said. His imag­i­na­tion never stops run­ning, and it in­ter­acts with ev­ery­thing in the world, he said.

Even as he stands fac­ing you his mind is wan­der­ing around the room, cre­at­ing shapes and im­pro­vis­ing with the sur­round­ing ar­chi­tec­tural forms.

He ex­presses his un­der­stand­ing of China through sculp­ture, he said, and presents that to peo­ple from all over the world as an in­tro­duc­tion to the coun­try.

He can lay some claim to be­ing an ideal per­son to do that, hav­ing spent more than half of his life in China.

He was raised in Chicago and grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Diego, be­fore ar­riv­ing in China in 1987 aged 23 to take up a grad­u­ate de­gree and spent the next 23 years or so in Guang­dong prov­ince, even­tu­ally mov­ing to Bei­jing in 2011.

“I wanted to go to the Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts for a mas­ter’s de­gree in sculp­ture … when I first ar­rived, but ended up en­rolling in a grad­u­ate pro­gram at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, be­cause I pre­ferred the warmer weather there.”

Per­haps not sur­pris­ingly, over three decades Krause has be­come Chi­nese in many ways.

He speaks flu­ent Chi­nese, he sips Chi­nese tea as he works in his stu­dio near 798 Art District in Bei­jing and he was a torch­bearer for the Olympic Games in the city in 2008.

Over the past 20 years he has been work­ing on a se­ries called China on the Move, in which bronze sculp­tures por­tray peo­ple who can­not stop danc­ing and cel­e­brat­ing, and they rep­re­sent ev­ery­day ur­ban Chi­nese.

Al­though he learned how to make bronze sculp­tures from Chi­nese pro­fes­sors in Guang­dong, his art is also deeply in­flu­enced by mod­ern ab­stract 20th cen­tury Western art, he said.

Sheng Wei, the editor of China Art mag­a­zine, said: “In view­ing his work there is more than just aes­thetic beauty to en­joy; you also need to think a bit more deeply and un­der­stand the con­cepts be­hind it.”

Krause, too, puts a pre­mium on imag­i­na­tion — what lies be­hind his works — a mat­ter that has weighed on him re­cently.

In China, stu­dents have been sit­ting en­trance ex­ams for the big art acad­e­mies, and Krause has been busy grad­ing can­di­dates’ paint­ings and draw­ings. He is the only non-Chi­nese teacher that the In­sti­tute of Art at Ren­min Univer­sity of China in Bei­jing has had as a judge, among 30.

It is a task Krause has ap­plied him­self to with mixed feel­ings.

“In Western coun­tries th­ese en­trance ex­ams are about ideas and con­cepts with some tech­nique. But here, de­vi­a­tions are scored lower. Cre­ativ­ity is not weighted or scored.”

At present, his sculp­ture ex­hi­bi­tion Fig­ures, Re­forms, Open­ing Up and De­vel­op­ment is be­ing staged at the Jing­guang Cen­ter, af­fil­i­ated to the United States em­bassy in Bei­jing, and it runs un­til the end of May. Parts of China on the Move and Qin War­riors se­ries are dis­played.

The em­bassy said that th­ese works “re­flected the changes that have hap­pened in China over the past 28 years”.

“I’m so im­pressed with the dragon piece,” said Zhu Qi­ran, a stu­dent at the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Univer­sity of China. She could sense the strong Chi­nese el­e­ments in Krause’s works, she said.

“I was born in the year of the Dragon — strong and en­er­getic — and am fas­ci­nated by the dragon’s aes­thet­ics, which have a spe­cial place in China’s his­tory and cul­ture.”

PHO­TOS BY YAN DONGJIE / CHINA DAILY

Daniel Krause with one of his works at the ex­hi­bi­tion in Bei­jing.

Krause’s bronze sculp­ture of an­cient Chi­nese sol­diers in­spired by the Ter­ra­cotta War­riors.

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