Bringing sculpture to life

Updated 2018-12-11 08:03:00

Prediction by Yu Chenxing from China wins the gold award at the Seventh Liu Kaiqu Awards International Sculpture Exhibition.

Late sculptor Liu Kaiqu's views about art are still a source of inspiration for modern-day artists, Lin Qi reports.

One of the things that the late sculptor Liu Kaiqu (1904-93) told his postgraduate students at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in the 1950s was that a genuine sculptor should have the heart and mind of Pygmalion.

In Greek mythology, Pygmalion-the king of Cyprus, who is also a sculptor-falls in love with one of his works, an ivory statue named Galatea. And he is so obsessed with it that he keeps fashioning it to perfection and admires it every day.

Finally, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, gives life to Galatea. She marries Pygmalion and bears him a daughter.

Liu was among the first Chinese students at the prestigious National High School of Fine Arts in Paris in the 1920s.

On the Cloud by Wang Shaojun receives a special honor award at the event.

In his words, a good sculpture should not only look alive but also "be granted with a soul and, essentially, a sense of eternity and independence". And to achieve that goal, he said, a work that will stand the test of time should reveal in combination one's historical and cultural heritage, and national spirit.

Liu's views of art were shaped during a time when his motherland was torn by poverty, chaos and foreign invasions. And those views are reflected in 34 sculptures by artists from home and abroad that won the Seventh Liu Kaiqu Awards in late October. The awards are an annual initiative launched in 2011 by the China Sculpture Institute in Beijing and Wuhu's city government.

The works are now on display at the Wuhu Sculpture Park in Wuhu, a laid-back city on the banks of the Yangtze River in Anhui province.

The winning works will be shown for a year until a new edition of the awards are given.

The awards are named after Liu to mark his place in modern Chinese sculpture and his legacy, which records the course of national liberation and uprising from the ruins of war.

Winning works at the previous Liu Kaiqu Awards are on permanent display at the Wuhu Sculpture Art Gallery.

Liu was a member of the design team for the Monument to the People's Heroes in Tian'anmen Square, which was completed in 1958.

The sculptural reliefs on the monument show 10 key events between the start of the First Opium War in 1840 and the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

Liu also sculpted dozens of statues of important figures in modern China, such as the great Chinese statesman Sun Yat-sen. And he portrayed unsung heroes, including soldiers fighting Japanese invaders and farmers toiling on land.

Today's sculptors work in quite a different context-social stability and material affluence.

Yu Chenxing, a teacher of sculpture at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, won this year's only gold award for his work, Prediction.

The stainless-steel sculpture that is several meters high depicts a Chinese abacus but with a new look.

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