Sculpt­ing Role Mod­els for the New Era

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Niu Huizai, Ni Weisi Edited by Mary Frances Cap­piello Pho­tos by Qu Bowei, Rao Qiang and cour­tesy of Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China

The Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China Sculpt­ing Event in Hon­our of Model Heroes and Model Work­ers was launched by the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China Sculp­ture Work­shop to create sculp­tures for role mod­els and lead­ing fig­ures in the new era.

Un­der the hands of a group of adroit sculp­tors whole­heart­edly con­cen­trat­ing on the study and mould­ing of stat­ues, life­less clay turned into life­like hu­man forms.

The sculp­tors who stood at the work­ta­bles con­cen­trat­ing on their cre­ations were all out­stand­ing young artisans par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China Sculp­ture Work­shop's the­me­based art cre­ation sem­i­nar. The sub­jects, who re­mained mo­tion­less in front of the work­ta­bles, were model heroes and well­known fig­ures from all walks of life in China. Young sculp­tors im­pro­vised on and re­fined their cre­ations to bring out the soul and tem­per­a­ment of their sub­jects. Un­der the hands of these skilled artisans, the im­age and spir­i­tual tem­per­a­ment rep­re­sented by the fig­ures of the new era were vividly dis­played in the fin­ished sculp­tures.

This event was part of a se­ries spon­sored by the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China Sculp­ture Work­shop. Since the launch of its first themed event on Septem­ber 13, 2017, known as “The Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China Sculpt­ing Event in Hon­our of Model Heroes and Model Work­ers,” an­other six themed events have been held, in­clud­ing “The Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China Jiao Yulu Me­mo­rial Sculpt­ing Event,”“The Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China Sculpt­ing Event in Hon­our of Mil­i­tary Per­son­nel” and the “2018 Teach­ers' Day Spe­cial Sculpt­ing Event.”

The out­stand­ing fig­ures from all walks of life in the new era have be­come in­spi­ra­tions for artists not only be­cause their im­ages re­flect the spirit of a new era but also be­cause of their no­ble moral char­ac­ter, which holds prom­ise for the na­tion. The Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China ar­ranged for young sculp­tors to create like­nesses of the fig­ures, to es­tab­lish them as ex­am­ples and mod­els. As Wu Weis­han, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China, said: “Sculpt­ing is three­d­i­men­sional, per­pet­ual and in­spir­ing. To­day we or­gan­ise work­shops through the art form of sculp­ture, en­cour­ag­ing sculp­tors na­tion­wide to ac­tively sign up to make stat­ues of heroes free of charge. I think this is in it­self to ad­vo­cate the virtue of both pro­fes­sional ex­cel­lence and moral in­tegrity and to ad­vo­cate a spirit, which is an im­por­tant bond be­tween artists and the broad masses of the peo­ple, be­tween artists and the times.” Wu con­tin­ued, “As a na­tional art mu­seum, it is not only nec­es­sary to hold ex­hi­bi­tions and ob­tain col­lec­tions but more im­por­tantly, we should lever­age the plat­form and re­sources of the Na­tional Art Mu­seum to fos­ter the con­struc­tion of ad­vanced so­cial­ist cul­ture. I hope that artists from all over the coun­try can hold great love in­side and con­sciously el­e­vate them­selves to the height of stand­ing for the peo­ple and singing for the times. While pur­su­ing artis­tic value in life, they should also take the lead for artists across the coun­try to glo­rify heroes, ex­tol our moth­er­land, praise the peo­ple, and cel­e­brate re­form and open­ing-up.”

Cel­e­brate the New Era in a Mon­u­men­tal Way

When think­ing of ex­cep­tional peo­ple and ad­vanced fig­ures, Chi­nese peo­ple can­not help but re­mem­ber the war-torn and event­ful years with im­ages of heroes who shed their blood flash­ing across their minds; or they might re­call Wang Jinxi, the “iron man” they learned about in their text­books, or Shi Chuanx­i­ang, who “would rather get dirty him­self alone to make thou­sands of house­holds clean.” This goes to show that most of the ad­vanced fig­ures are close to or­di­nary peo­ple's lives—they are not so far away ei­ther in time or in space. They are peo­ple ful­fill­ing their du­ties in all trades and pro­fes­sions. They are guard­ing the se­cu­rity of the land and the peo­ple on all bat­tle­fronts. While the gen­eral pub­lic may not know these in­di­vid­u­als' names, they recog­nise their im­por­tance in cre­at­ing the lives we live to­day.

Wu Weis­han said emo­tion­ally,“The ad­vanced fig­ures of the new era are model work­ers in all walks of life, as well as heroes who re­peat­edly made out­stand­ing mil­i­tary con­tri­bu­tions in rev­o­lu­tion­ary wars. They are com­mit­ted to their po­si­tions as teach­ers, san­i­ta­tion work­ers, med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers, sci­en­tific re­searchers, and na­tional bor­der de­fend­ers, mak­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary con­tri­bu­tions through their or­di­nary po­si­tions.”

Sculp­ture has al­ways held a place of im­por­tance in the 60-year his­tory of the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China. Its first di­rec­tor, sculp­tor Liu Kaiqu, was the cre­ator of the Mon­u­ment to the Peo­ple's Heroes. The cur­rent fifth di­rec­tor, Wu Weis­han, is also a sculp­tor. Sculp­ture is sig­nif­i­cant in that amongst the many dif­fer­ent kinds of artis­tic ex­pres­sions such as oil

paint­ing, tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ing and print­mak­ing, only sculp­ture is a spa­tial art. It is a medium that can be used to create a mon­u­ment, to ex­press a spirit, or to mould an im­age. There­fore, since Septem­ber 13, 2017, the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China has tried to por­tray and eu­lo­gise ad­vanced fig­ures through the artis­tic form of sculp­ture to con­vey the pos­i­tive en­ergy of so­ci­ety to the peo­ple.

The Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China is a na­tional-level palace of fine art and a plat­form for aes­thet­ics ed­u­ca­tion. It em­pha­sises the nur­tur­ing of peo­ple's minds and is a so­cio- cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tion be­yond school ed­u­ca­tion. It as­sumes the his­tor­i­cal mis­sion to con­vey the core val­ues of ad­vanced so­cial­ist cul­ture. Through the “Mak­ing Stat­ues for Ad­vanced Fig­ures of the New Era” event, young sculp­tors were cul­ti­vated and young peo­ple found good ex­am­ples to fol­low. Not only were the im­ages of heroes “shaped,” the heroic spirit of the heroes was also pro­moted. To in­vite the heroes and model work­ers into the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China is to in­vite spir­i­tual beauty into the mu­seum. Whether it is shap­ing of the spirit of beauty by the young sculp­tors, the fi­nal works com­pleted or the artis­tic forms pro­duced, they are all car­ri­ers of beauty. The whole sculpt­ing process achieves an in­te­gra­tion of the ideal and form of beauty, as well as a fu­sion of the spirit and em­bod­i­ment of beauty.

Ac­cord­ing to Wu Weis­han, the young sculp­tors who par­tic­i­pated in the “Mak­ing Stat­ues for Ad­vanced Fig­ures of the New Era” event came from the na­tional the­me­based art cre­ation sem­i­nars held by the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China, which gath­ered dozens of out­stand­ing sculp­tors from across the coun­try. For each event, the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China se­lects three sculp­tors from amongst the ap­pli­cants. Most of them are teach­ers, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sors and PHD stu­dents at col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties who, de­spite their youth, have achieved suc­cess in their fields.

“While shap­ing im­ages for heroes and model work­ers, the young sculp­tors have also been shap­ing them­selves in a proper man­ner,” said Wu Weis­han. “This is not only a process of artis­tic cre­ation, but also a process of spir­i­tual com­mu­ni­ca­tion. There­fore, it is nec­es­sary to in­te­grate artis­tic cre­ation into the process of spir­i­tual shap­ing, to in­te­grate the growth of young peo­ple into the ex­cel­lent his­tory and to in­te­grate our pur­suits to­day into the great ideal of the Chi­nese dream. In this way, we will be able to glo­rify the era in a mon­u­men­tal man­ner, es­tab­lish a new model for the era, pro­mote the moral char­ac­ters of the heroes and com­mu­ni­cate their heroic deeds so that the whole of so­ci­ety can form an at­mos­phere that up­holds virtues and art, shape beauty with great love and shape great beauty with great art.”

Since the 18th Na­tional Con­gress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China, Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Xi Jin­ping has re­it­er­ated his views on cul­tural con­struc­tion and cul­tural self-con­fi­dence in many im­por­tant speeches and has given very clear di­rec­tives. Since the speech at the “New Fo­rum on Lit­er­a­ture and Art,” it is even more im­por­tant for artists to keep their roots in ev­ery­day life and main­tain close ties with peo­ple as a life­long pur­suit. Artists should have faith, show moral in­tegrity, be em­pa­thetic and stick to prin­ci­ples. These are the re­quire­ments of Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Xi Jin­ping for lit­er­ary and art work­ers. The pub­lic has an enor­mous need for beauty. Judg­ing by the two-kilo­me­tre-long queue for tick­ets to the “Beauty in the New Era” and “Shar­ing of Beauty” ex­hi­bi­tions held by the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China, it is clear that great cre­ations in each era and ex­cel­lent works that re­flect artis­tic qual­i­ties are loved by the pub­lic. The “Mak­ing Stat­ues for the Ad­vanced Fig­ures of the New Era” event also re­ceived at­ten­tion from or­di­nary cit­i­zens. They came to view the artis­tic process and ex­changed ideas with ad­vanced fig­ures and sculp­tors. Visi­tors per­son­ally felt the power of role mod­els and were ex­posed to artis­tic in­flu­ence.

Wu Weis­han ex­plained: “The art of sculp­ture may seem like a kind of pro­found and el­e­gant art to the gen­eral pub­lic. Some peo­ple may think that it is far from our life, but when they see the fig­ures of heroes around them cre­ated by the artists, which are very life­like, they will feel that the art of sculp­ture is not far from them. This event is a good way to spread art, a good method to spread ideals through art, and a good means to pre­serve the artists' achieve­ments and the glo­ri­ous im­ages of ad­vanced fig­ures through the medium of sculp­ture. These works will be col­lected and pre­served by the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion of the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China. For

the some spe­cial rev­o­lu­tion­ary fig­ures, such as heroes and model work­ers with out­stand­ing mil­i­tary ser­vice or who have won nu­mer­ous medals, the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China will repli­cate these sculp­tures and give them to the heroes as presents. This is a trib­ute paid by the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China to the heroes who made out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions to our coun­try.”

Mak­ing Sculp­tures for Prom­i­nent Sol­diers

From the Au­gust 1 Nan­chang Up­ris­ing to the present, from the es­tab­lish­ment of the Chi­nese Work­ers' and Peas­ants' Red Army to the ap­pear­ance of the Eighth Route Army, the New Fourth Army, the Vol­un­teers' Army and the Peo­ple's Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) un­til the army build­ing of to­day, the glo­ri­ous tra­di­tions of the PLA are a pre­cious trea­sure of our coun­try, and these tra­di­tions are em­bod­ied in ev­ery heroic sol­dier. In or­der to com­mem­o­rate Au­gust 1, the an­niver­sary of the found­ing of the PLA, and to cel­e­brate the 91-year glo­ri­ous his­tory of the army, on July 31 this year, the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China held the sculp­ture work­shop event themed “The Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China Mak­ing Stat­ues for Sol­diers.” Wu Weis­han per­son­ally “went into bat­tle” to sculpt Li Yuhou, a war vet­eran who par­tic­i­pated in the Hun­dred-reg­i­ment Cam­paign and was the for­mer deputy po­lit­i­cal com­mis­sar of the Bei­jing Mil­i­tary Re­gion En­gi­neer­ing Corps and Equip­ment De­part­ment.

De­spite his age of 94, Li Yuhou re­mained spir­ited dur­ing the sculp­ture event. He was hale and hearty, wear­ing medals on his chest that rep­re­sented both hon­ours given by the coun­try and mem­o­ries of his youth amidst the wars. Mu­seum Di­rec­tor Wu im­me­di­ately grasped the old man's un­com­pro­mis­ing and up­right char­ac­ter. The clay grad­u­ally took shape in Wu's hands, with fa­cial fea­tures and ex­pres­sions grad­u­ally emerg­ing: Li's eyes look straight ahead, firm and pow­er­ful; smil­ing with mouth closed firmly re­veal­ing his for­ti­tude; and his well- de­vel­oped jaw mus­cles show­ing slightly; his head, neck and chest straight and strong. Through the por­trayal of these de­tails, an im­age of an old sol­dier who has ex­pe­ri­enced the tor­ture of war was vividly shaped.

In the past 30 years be­gin­ning in the early 1990s, Wu Weis­han has made around 600 stat­ues of his­tor­i­cal fig­ures, in­clud­ing many fa­mous per­son­ages in old age, such as so­ci­ol­o­gist Fei Xiao­tong and physi­cists Yang Zhen­ning and Qian We­ichang, thus ac­cu­mu­lat­ing rich ex­pe­ri­ence in cre­at­ing stat­ues of the el­derly. This time, in or­der to shape the im­age of Li Yuhou, he spent one and a half hours get­ting to know the vet­eran sol­dier well be­fore he be­gan sculpt­ing.

“Al­though the old man has re­tired, he still pays at­ten­tion to so­cial is­sues in his re­tire­ment years and cares about the growth of the next gen­er­a­tion,” said Wu. He ex­plained: “He has a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity and a touch of vi­tal­ity. This kind of vi­tal­ity is a kind of up­right­ness. Al­though he is more than ninety years old, he re­mains a pi­o­neer of the so­ci­ety and crit­i­cises with­out mercy the prob­lems he dis­ap­proves of. He has per­sonal in­tegrity and a right­eous­ness that is de­tached from the self. The old man is dif­fer­ent from the av­er­age per­son who, when act­ing, just fol­lows a model. He feels that he is com­plet­ing a task and has a strong sense of mis­sion, like a sol­dier who is ready for bat­tle. The sense of mis­sion is what the sol­diers share. Once the or­der is is­sued, the mis­sion must be com­pleted. We also made stat­ues for the rev­o­lu­tion­ary mar­tyr Li Deng­gui, who was awarded the ti­tle of “The Fear­less Guard Sol­dier” by the Bei­jing Mil­i­tary Re­gion. On the af­ter­noon of April 29, 1976, in the fight to in­ter­cept coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies car­ry­ing ex­plo­sives in an at­tempt to break into the for­mer Soviet Union em­bassy to create a ma­jor for­eign­re­lated in­ci­dent, Com­rade Li Deng­gui re­mained fear­less and res­o­lute de­spite the dan­ger and sac­ri­ficed him­self at the age of 23. In or­der to recre­ate the orig­i­nal im­age, a young sol­dier dressed in Com­rade Li Deng­gui's old uni­form served as a model. It was quite en­er­gy­con­sum­ing for the young per­son to hold the blast­ing charge through the en­tire process. The pos­ture can be main­tained eas­ily for a minute or two, or even ten min­utes, but the model kept the pos­ture for two hours, mo­tion­less from be­gin­ning to end. In the hot July, both the peo­ple who were ob­serv­ing the scene and the sculp­tor were touched by it. This is ex­actly the sol­diers' sense of mis­sion.”

On the day of the sculp­ture work­shop event, nearly 30 armed po­lice sol­diers were ob­serv­ing the scene nearby, and they were deeply touched. Stu­dents from Jingzhong Pri­mary School were also in­vited to the event. They were in­spired to cher­ish the ideal of a strong army in their young hearts. The sculp­tors were also touched. Wu Weis­han said that he hopes the young artists can use their hands to share their re­spect for the sol­diers and their rev­er­ence for the Peo­ple's Repub­lic of China. Wu be­lieves artists should com­bine cre­ative ac­tiv­i­ties with great un­der­tak­ings such as eu­lo­gis­ing so­cial­ism, ex­tolling heroes, glo­ri­fy­ing the party and prais­ing the peo­ple; and in­te­grate pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion ac­tiv­i­ties with this great cause to form a joint force. They should spread pos­i­tive en­ergy and create new glo­ries for the new era and his­tory.

Sculp­ture is about ex­press­ing fig­ures' spir­i­tual worlds through the por­trayal of their ap­pear­ances, move­ments and man­ners. In or­der to en­ter the spir­i­tual world of sol­diers, Wu Weis­han en­cour­aged sculp­tors to read more lit­er­ary works and grasp the com­mon­al­ity and in­di­vid­u­al­ity of heroes. In­di­vid­u­al­ity can be found in their heroic acts and their dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions, but there is com­mon­al­ity in their spir­i­tual world. The com­mon­al­ity of sol­diers is em­bod­ied in a kind of up­right­ness, a kind of brav­ery, a kind of for­ti­tude, a kind of mo­ti­va­tion, a kind of re­spon­si­bil­ity and a kind of un­yield­ing­ness; while the in­di­vid­u­al­ity of sol­diers is re­flected in their iden­ti­ties, such as serv­ing in the Red Army, the Eighth Route Army, the New Fourth Army, the Peo­ple's Lib­er­a­tion Army and the Vol­un­teers' Army. Var­i­ous iden­ti­ties and his­to­ries have been deeply im­printed on each sol­dier.

Wu stated: “The times are chang­ing in the process of mov­ing for­ward, but the fig­ures of the new era are in­sep­a­ra­ble from our old rev­o­lu­tion­ary tra­di­tions. To­day, the army and our en­tire so­ci­ety are pro­mot­ing ex­cel­lent tra­di­tional cul­tures and car­ry­ing for­ward ad­vanced deeds of out­stand­ing fig­ures from dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods. These out­stand­ing fig­ures have in­her­ited the fine tra­di­tions of their pre­de­ces­sors, so they have both tra­di­tional and mod­ern qual­i­ties.”

Mould­ing Stat­ues for Out­stand­ing Pub­lic Ser­vants

The at­mos­phere at the site was solemn and awe-in­spir­ing. Young sculp­tor Wu Dingyu calmly viewed the ma­te­ri­als and pho­tos of Jiao Yulu, as if mak­ing a silent spir­i­tual di­a­logue. Jiao's res­o­lute ex­pres­sion flashed through Wu's mind, fir­ing his artis­tic spirit. It took Wu an hour and a half to create the bust of Jiao, the cel­e­brated pub­lic ser­vant.

Prior to this, Wu Dingyu has been fol­low­ing the “Mak­ing Stat­ues for Ad­vanced Fig­ures of the New Era” event at the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China. He signed up for the op­por­tu­nity when he learned that he could create a statue of Jiao Yulu. In his words: “I am touched by his deeds and I want to learn from ad­vanced fig­ures.”

Be­fore mak­ing the sculp­ture of Jiao, Wu had known of him through news re­ports and TV dra­mas. How­ever, this event gave him the chance to gain in­ti­mate knowl­edge of a pub­lic ser­vant. In Wu's view, what he cre­ates is not merely a work

of art. He per­ceives the spirit of ad­vanced fig­ures dili­gently and then uses his hands to give shape to this spirit. In the process of prepa­ra­tion, he col­lected in­for­ma­tion, stud­ied and un­der­stood the im­age of Jiao Yulu in dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods, and then an­a­lysed in which pe­riod and un­der what state the char­ac­ter im­age was most wor­thy of be­ing de­picted in. Dur­ing this pe­riod, he re­watched a drama in which Jiao Yulu was played by Li Xue­jian and cried when he saw the scene of Jiao still work­ing in the late stages of liver can­cer. At that mo­ment, he felt he re­ally en­tered Jiao's in­ner world. He deeply per­ceived the great “pub­lic ser­vice spirit” of an of­fi­cial who has ded­i­cated his life to his coun­try and made self­less con­tri­bu­tions even when he was suf­fer­ing the most ex­cru­ci­at­ing phys­i­cal pain in his dy­ing years.

Wu Dingyu ex­plained ex­cit­edly: “As a sculp­tor, I have been re­think­ing what kind of works I should create, how I should rep­re­sent a char­ac­ter and how to ex­press the spirit. In pre­par­ing the sculp­ture of Jiao Yulu, I grad­u­ally un­der­stood why I should do this and why teacher Wu Weis­han asked us to ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in this. My feel­ings for this cre­ation are deep. As young sculp­tors, we should be full of vigour and vi­tal­ity.

In the era with a wealth of in­for­ma­tion re­sources, what di­rec­tion should I choose? Re­gard­ing the statue of Jiao Yulu, I am touched by his pub­lic ser­vant spirit. Over the past few decades, his spirit has spread to countless peo­ple. Now, I am ap­proach­ing and per­ceiv­ing him be­cause I will shape his im­age, and in the process I re­alise that our artists shall cul­ti­vate mo­ral­ity like pub­lic ser­vants. The whole process is one of learn­ing for me and a process of cor­rect­ing and find­ing my own bear­ing. There­fore, sculp­ture is a process of mu­tual in­flu­ence be­tween the sculp­tor and the ob­ject. It is a process of cul­ti­vat­ing mo­ral­ity. Al­though his deeds are in the past, the spirit of Jiao Yulu is still alive and fits in with our cur­rent era and each of us.”

Af­ter full prepa­ra­tion, Wu Dingyu worked quickly and with­outh in­hi­bi­tion. He likes quick sculp­tur­ing, which he thinks is the most di­rect way to ex­press feel­ings. He feels that mo­men­tary emo­tional ex­pres­sion is the most real, and the di­a­logue with the spir­i­tual world of the fig­ures comes from the bot­tom of the heart. In his cre­ation, the res­o­lute ex­pres­sion of Jiao Yulu oc­curred to his mind. He cre­ated more tex­tures around the eyes of the sculp­ture so that the im­age of the ob­ject bore the traces of age. This sense of vi­cis­si­tude could not hide the firm be­lief re­vealed in the eyes. At the same time, he also used shadow and tex­ture to ex­press the char­ac­ter's ill­ness. The sculp­ture vividly show­cased the im­age of a pub­lic ser­vant who is suf­fer­ing a lot of pain but al­ways har­bours the per­se­ver­ing qual­ity of a Party mem­ber.

In June of this year, Wu Dingyu cre­ated a deeply felt work of art called “Ex­cel­lent Teacher.” The young teacher Li Fang died while sav­ing her stu­dents. At her me­mo­rial, the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion launched a call to learn from her. Af­ter see­ing the news, Wu Dingyu felt that there was a spirit call­ing him and vol­un­teered to create a sculp­ture of the teacher. Look­ing back at the cre­ation, he said that he did not want to merely de­pict a hero but wanted to ex­press the spirit of the teacher Li Fang. There­fore, the sculp­ture he chose to make por­trays Li Fang spend­ing a happy time with her stu­dents. It is purely an im­age of an or­di­nary teacher rather than a mon­u­ment to a per­son keep­ing her­self aloof. As Wu Dingyu un­der­stands it, Li Fang showed the ded­i­ca­tion of a teacher who would sac­ri­fice her­self for stu­dents at a mo­ment's no­tice and make in­stinc­tive judg­ments in an in­stant, demon­strat­ing her hum­ble and ded­i­cated spirit. This kind of spirit lies in her car­ing for the stu­dents as if they were her own chil­dren and is es­sen­tially the same as Jiao Yulu's. Jiao Yulu had al­ways said that he was the son of the peo­ple and ul­ti­mately ded­i­cated his life to them. There­fore, there is com­mon ground in the ad­vanced spirit of pub­lic ser­vant Jiao Yulu and teacher Li Fang.

Wang Dingyu has thought deeply about the process young artisans should fol­low when por­tray­ing these kinds of heroes. “For the stat­ues of ad­vanced fig­ures, it is very im­por­tant for young artists to find the right di­rec­tion. In the process of cre­ation, I learn to dis­tin­guish be­tween right and wrong, what val­ues we should live our lives by, which should guide us and which should give us di­rec­tion. I know which ad­vanced mod­els should be praised, shaped and pro­moted and which spirit our young artists should pass on.” Wu said solemnly: “We must up­hold the di­rec­tion of the core val­ues of so­cial­ism. At a time when art trends emerge, it is cru­cial to choose our own moral di­rec­tion. Par­tic­i­pat­ing in cre­ation wit­nessed by the peo­ple is a prag­matic spirit and a prac­tice. We achieve per­cep­tion through dili­gent ef­forts. It seems that the ac­tual cre­ation of an art­work takes less than two hours, but the whole process from prepa­ra­tion, cre­ation, to the fi­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion and so­cial feed­back is, I be­lieve, a big event in my mind and my life.”

At present, Wu Dingyu is cre­at­ing a statue of John Rabe, the Ger­man busi­ness­man who worked tire­lessly to save Chi­nese civil­ians dur­ing the Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion of Nan­jing. Bei­jing Union Univer­sity, where Wu teaches, is go­ing to es­tab­lish the John Rabe Bei­jing Ex­change Cen­tre, and the de­scen­dants of Mr. Rabe hope to erect a statue of him there. Wu got on well with the de­scen­dants of Mr. Rabe im­me­di­ately. He be­lieves that this is fate, be­cause in the past, his tu­tor Wu Weis­han made a statue of John Rabe which was praised by the leg­endary man's fam­ily. Now it is Wu Dingyu's turn to make a statue of Rabe, util­is­ing the skills and ideals passed down from his teacher. “Teach­ers teach us not only tech­nique and the ex­pres­sion meth­ods of sculp­ture but also to a greater ex­tent a kind of work state re­flected in their mind and acts. This al­lows me to grad­u­ally un­der­stand the com­mon ground of ad­vanced fig­ures. We give shape to these mod­els and ad­vanced fig­ures be­cause our so­ci­ety needs their ex­em­plary spirit. They are the lodestar of so­ci­ety and the value and di­rec­tion of my art.”

Cre­at­ing Stat­ues for Fe­male Sol­diers

“When I saw the in­tro­duc­tion and photo of Se­nior-colonel Wang Yi, I thought she was so beau­ti­ful,” men­tioned sculp­tor Zhou Simin from the Sculp­ture De­part­ment of the Cen­tral Acad­emy of

Fine Arts, smil­ing. “It is mean­ing­ful for fe­male sculp­tors to make sculp­tures of fe­male sol­diers. On the day of the event, we got along very well.” She added: “I am hon­oured to par­tic­i­pate in the fifth ses­sion of the themed event for Au­gust 1. It is an hon­our to make a sculp­ture for a se­nior colonel and fa­mous mil­i­tary writer, poet, lyri­cist and mil­i­tary cul­ture critic. This event is also a rare learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for us en­gaged in sculp­ture art. If there is an op­por­tu­nity, we will surely par­tic­i­pate.”

In or­der to de­pict the style of con­tem­po­rary fe­male sol­diers as com­pletely as pos­si­ble, Zhou Simin searched the In­ter­net ex­ten­sively for in­for­ma­tion on Wang Yi and read her ar­ti­cles and po­ems. Com­bin­ing that with her own life ex­pe­ri­ence, Zhou tried to en­ter the in­ner world of Wang Yi from an artist's point of view.

Per­haps be­cause they are women and are en­gaged in sec­tors re­lated to lit­er­a­ture and art, the two rapidly be­came com­fort­able with each other at their first meet­ing. Zhou Simin said with a smile: “I am easy-go­ing in na­ture. The colonel is also an out­go­ing and cheer­ful type, so it was very easy for us to build trust, and we have great com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Be­fore be­gin­ning to work, Zhou Simin de­lib­er­ately ex­plained the ba­sics of sculp­ture to Wang Yi, in­clud­ing the stages of the whole process and how to fin­ish a sculp­ture. Wang Yi quickly took a lik­ing to sculp­ture and has her own un­der­stand­ing and aes­thet­ics of this art. Wang also specif­i­cally asked Zhou about her aca­demic ex­pe­ri­ence, cur­rent work and life. Soon the two were like bo­som friends who asked about each other af­ter a long sep­a­ra­tion.

Zhou Simin be­gan her on-site sketch for the sculp­ture dur­ing her chat with the other woman. First Zhou fo­cused on the mil­i­tary uni­form and col­lar worn by Wang, re­flect­ing the salient fea­tures of con­tem­po­rary fe­male sol­diers. It was hot at the end of July, and Wang still wore a thick mil­i­tary jacket while pos­ing. At Zhou's sug­ges­tion, Wang took off her coat, re­veal­ing a sim­ple cam­ou­flage half-sleeved T-shirt. Zhou thought Wang em­bod­ied nat­u­ral hero­ism and drive, re­mind­ing her of a poem by Chair­man Mao that goes: “Chi­nese peo­ple har­bour great am­bi­tion, and fe­male sol­diers love the mil­i­tary and safe­guard the coun­try with­out giv­ing ex­ces­sive at­ten­tion to their ap­pear­ance.”

Zhou elab­o­rated: “Wang Yi is a woman in the new era. She is the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of con­tem­po­rary fe­male sol­diers. Rather than us­ing weapons to carry out the du­ties of de­fend­ing the coun­try, she shows her value as a ser­vice­woman through her pen, her thoughts and her words. I an­a­lysed her char­ac­ter from the artis­tic point of view and en­tered her spir­i­tual world to try to ex­plain her in­ner mind in the form of sculp­ture. Al­though the sketch­ing time was very short, I was able to seize the most im­por­tant point beauty. This is a fe­male sol­dier with ex­ter­nal and in­ner beauty. To ex­press this beauty, I must grasp the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the neck and the head. An­other im­por­tant point is the eyes. In ren­der­ing the eyes, the black eye­ball of the statue is slightly con­cave but not deep, cre­at­ing a re­laxed feel­ing. With the slightly up­turned cor­ners of the mouth and easy-go­ing smile, the im­age is very in­fec­tious.” Speak­ing of sculp­ture work, Zhou Simin ex­pressed her own per­cep­tions of sol­diers' beauty. “The beauty of male sol­diers may be re­flected by grandeur or solem­nity. The beauty of fe­male sol­diers is both soft and force­ful. This is their unique beauty and their unique tem­per­a­ment.”

Zhou Simin is one of China's ear­li­est con­tem­po­rary fe­male sculp­tors. When study­ing at the Fine Arts School Af­fil­i­ated to the China Cen­tral Acad­emy of Fine Arts, she took an in­ter­est in sculp­ture and of­ten went to the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China to see ex­hi­bi­tions. She had orig­i­nally wished to learn print­mak­ing, but in one ex­hi­bi­tion, one of her teach­ers sug­gested that she study sculp­ture in­stead. At that time, women study­ing sculp­ture were few and far be­tween. Af­ter con­sid­er­a­tion, she took the teacher's ad­vice and em­barked on the road of sculp­ture art. To­day, more

and more girls study sculp­ture, and the power of women in the field is grad­u­ally grow­ing.

Zhou Simin's cre­ations have al­ways had a re­al­is­tic style. This re­al­ism is closely re­lated to her school­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Fine Arts School Af­fil­i­ated to the China Cen­tral Acad­emy of Fine Arts, she was sent to study in the for­mer Soviet Union for seven years. Her tu­tor was one of the most fa­mous sculp­tors in the for­mer Soviet Union at the time. The works of her tu­tor were quite main­stream, mainly stat­ues of il­lus­tri­ous peo­ple such as Pushkin and Chekhov. What most im­pressed Zhou was that her tu­tor per­son­ally ex­pe­ri­enced World War II and was in­volved in the Great Pa­tri­otic War from 1941 to 1945.

Zhou Simin said ex­cit­edly: “The war years are just a part of his­tory for the younger gen­er­a­tion, but for my tu­tor, it was his life. His work por­trays and ex­presses his own life ex­pe­ri­ences. Some­times we can't say that the rev­o­lu­tion­ary theme is not fash­ion­able. That's just not true. You have to know the back­ground of the story to have a real un­der­stand­ing of it. My tu­tor taught me a se­ri­ous at­ti­tude to­wards cre­ation. Why are the works of art he cre­ated so pop­u­lar? Be­cause his works have hu­man na­ture. They are real. They do not only de­pict glory but also a true and com­plex pic­ture of lead­ers. Through­out all of art his­tory, whether it is Chi­nese or world­wide, an art­work will en­dure as long as it is truly beau­ti­ful.”

Pur­su­ing beauty, true beauty, is the aim of Zhou Simin's art. She has made quite a few works with fe­male sub­jects such as the young mar­tyr Liu Hu­lan. This was part of her “Chi­nese Youth Se­ries,” which also in­cluded a sculp­ture de­pict­ing the young Deng Xiaop­ing dur­ing his stud­ies in France.

In the 1950s, many artists cre­ated works por­tray­ing Liu Hu­lan. When Zhou Simin was plan­ning hers, she felt that she should have a dif­fer­ent un­der­stand­ing than her pre­de­ces­sors. There­fore, she was in­clined to high­light Liu's real age, em­pha­sis­ing that she was just a 15-year- old girl. There­fore, the sculp­ture of Liu Hu­lan made by Zhou is thin­ner than the fa­mil­iar im­age in the pub­lic mind. Liu Hu­lan looks even slim­mer as a re­sult of the rope tied tightly around her thin and petite body. On the round base of the statue, she puts one foot for­ward firmly, rush­ing forth, show­ing her de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Zhou con­cluded: “I made an en­tire beau­ti­ful im­age of Liu Hu­lan. At the same time, I gave shape to her firm be­lief and the beauty of right­eous­ness. I feel that when I make a work of art, I must grasp its rep­re­sen­ta­tive mo­ment and im­age. I have read the story of Liu Hu­lan and learned about her deeds. The mo­ment she sac­ri­ficed her life is the most touch­ing. It is the cli­max of life. In fact, in the new era, we have been mak­ing works along the themes of ma­jor his­tor­i­cal and rev­o­lu­tion­ary events. This spirit must be passed on. As a teacher, what I do also af­fects my stu­dents. At the same time, con­tem­po­rary art is di­verse, cov­er­ing all types of forms. I think at the very least, I am send­ing out real voices. I am most con­cerned with beau­ti­ful peo­ple, peo­ple with sto­ries and in­ter­est­ing his­tor­i­cal fig­ures, so I feel I must ad­here to my re­al­is­tic style and bring beau­ti­ful works to the au­di­ence.”

Mould­ing a statue of a model teacher

A young sculp­tor makes sculp­tures.

Cre­at­ing stat­ues of out­stand­ing fig­ures

Role mod­els and heroes who be­came the sub­jects of stat­ues at the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China

Zhou Simin and her sculp­ture work

Sculpt­ing for an el­derly vet­eran at the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.