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Arts & Culture
Arts & Culture
UPDATED: January 19, 2012 NO. 4 JANUARY 26, 2012
Restarting an Art Form
A collection of 50 young artists will revive Chinese sculpture
By Bai Shi


THE SHORE: A work in porcelain by Shi Dan, a lone figure sits on the shore and looks straight ahead (WEI YAO) 

Sculpture enthusiasts are treated to almost 100 works by 50 young sculptors at the Today Art Museum in Beijing from January 8 to February 13. The exhibition is part of a three-year promotion program the China Sculpture Institute (CSI) launched to introduce more young sculptors to the public.

The institute has sponsored five exhibitions in nine cities since September 2010. The tour just arrived in Beijing.

The current exhibition in Beijing has been titled Starting as the organizers hope it will mark a fresh start for the artists involved, and galvanize the world of contemporary Chinese sculpture.

Chinese sculpture is currently going through significant upheaval and sculptors are confronting a number of stiff challenges.

While China's booming economy means that a growing amount of funds is flowing into the fine arts, this influx of money has led to the widespread commoditization of Chinese art.

As art has become more about investment and less about aesthetics and taste, the passion and creativity have been pushed to edge of disappearance.


MUSIC AS LIFE: A wooden beast made out of pieces of traditional Chinese furniture, by Chen Rong (WEI YAO) 

The CSI program, however, looks to revive the creative spirit of art, particularly sculpture. The broader aims of the program are to give young artists more exposure and raise questions about where art is headed among the public.

"Since the dawn of the 21st century, sculpture has faced new problems. As it has become more of a commodity, its scope for expression has been marginalized and degraded," said Wu Hongliang, Dean of Beijing Fine Art Academy and the organizer of the exhibition.

"An individual sculptor would not be enough to catch the public's attention. A line-up of 50 young artists in the show, however, makes it much more appealing for art lovers," he said.

The works by these young sculptors usually elicit a great deal of thought from viewers.


THE DREAM OF FLIGHT: Three chairs with wings and rotor blades constitute a dream of flight, by Wang Congyi (WEI YAO) 

For example, Music as Life is a group of wood-carvings by Chen Rong, who graduated from the Sichuan Fine Art Institute last year. One sculpture is shaped like a horse or a cow, composed out of various modules. The work reminds the visitors of a wooden ox, a kind of transport robot which was described in the Chinese classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong (1330-1400).

Wood pieces are Chen's favorite medium for sculpture and while he is still an extremely young artist his works have already earned him fame. His work, The Year of 1949, made of traditional Chinese wood architectural pieces, was bought by Tsinghua University recently. Using natural rings in wood, Chen's work often prompts people to think of the passage of time.

And the amount of thought that these works provoke is an indication of the promise and potential of art, when it remains pure, and isn't diluted by an overwhelming commercial impetus.

Email us at: baishi@bjreview.com

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