Exhibition shows works with scientific aesthetics

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A sculpture of Yuan Longping is displayed at Charm of Science and Technology, an exhibition at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing. [Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

Art and science are, as Albert Einstein put it, "the branches of the same tree".

Both exist in the pursuit of truth and beauty, nurturing the minds of the people and prompting social progress.

Charm of Science and Technology, an exhibition that opened at the National Art Museum of China on Sunday, and which will run through Monday, shows more than 100 artworks from the museum's collection, which sparkle with the radiance of art and science. Broken down into three sections, it presents major events, accomplishments and luminaries in the Chinese sciences spanning more than seven decades.

A famous quote by Einstein is prominently displayed on the wall at the exhibition: "After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in aesthetics, plasticity and form. The greatest scientists are always artists as well."

Wu Weishan, director of the NAMOC, says the exhibition not only reviews the toil and glories of modern Chinese science, it also invites people to examine the interaction between science and art.

He says many world-famous projects, since ancient times, have been the result of a marriage between art and science, such as the Forbidden City and Cologne Cathedral, while scientific works of momentum also present an artistic charm, such as Shui Jing Zhu (commentary on the water classics), which was about the ancient geography of China and authored by Li Daoyuan, who lived between the 5th and 6th centuries.

"Art and science are inseparable in helping people understand, transform and construct the world," Wu says.

"On one level, this exhibition shows the beauty of reasoning, thinking and argumentation. On the other level, it shows how new technologies reinvent the way artworks are created and further influence their aesthetic value. For example, more artists are embracing 3D printing as an efficient aid to their work."

Pieces on show reach back as early as the mid-1940s, with woodcuts being made to populate knowledge of agriculture and midwifery among farmers, in the border areas led by the Communist Party of China.

There are works from the 1950s and '60s that show several hydrology projects and the development of China's steel industry after the founding of New China.

The latest works hail heroes from the medical profession that are fighting against the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as those from the aerospace sector who have recently helped send Chinese astronauts into space, and hardware to the moon and Mars.

Also on show are works by artists from abroad, including a bust created by late artist Hsiung Ping-ming who grew up in China, but lived most of his life in France. The sculpture depicts his father Xiong Qinglai, a noted mathematician who headed the mathematics department at Tsinghua University in the late 1920s.

The Xiong family neighbored the family of Yang Wuzhi, also a mathematician, while at Tsinghua, and Hsiung and Yang's son, C.N. Yang, forged a lifelong friendship across continents.

A bust of Yang, the Nobel Prize laureate, by Wu, a sculptor in his own right, is also on show.

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