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'Onona' - yin and yang by another name
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Balkans-born sculptor Drago Marin Cherina is inspired by yin and yang to create abstract wooden sculpture pairs. He calls them "Onona" from the southern Slavonic words on and ona.

With eyes, we can see, with hands, we can touch. But with imagination, we can see and touch anything whether it exists or not. Art is the guide to the imagination.

Balkans-born Drago Marin Cherina, now a well-known Australian sculptor, will share his world of the imagination through a free one-year educational exhibition of his "Onona" - around 200 wooden sculptures - at Shanghai's JenSen Museum.

At the opening next Wednesday, Cherina will be available to talk with visitors about his work.

The sculptures in pairs are in abstract shapes about the size of the pair. Cherina says the concept of "Onona," a combination of on and ona, is like that of yin and yang but taken from the language of the ancient Balkans.

Cherina, who comes from Croatia, has created more than 50 psychological portraits in sculpture of figures such as Picasso, Henry Moore and Dali. He used to work as Moore's assistant at Moore's estate residence, studio and special sculpture park in Much Haddam, England. This is where Cherina first created his "Onona" sculptures.

Cherina considers himself fortunate as an artist to have been exposed to two great cultures when he was young - Italian and Chinese.

He was born in Kocula, a small island in the north of Croatia on the Venetian Dalmation coast. Some historians say Marco Polo was born there, though his birthplace is generally believed to be Venice.

"It was Marco Polo who brought glorious Chinese culture home," says Cherina. "You'll find that Croatia used to be ruled by the Roman Empire for hundreds of years. Italian culture took root there. Both the two cultures have great influence on me."

The "Onona" sculptures, according to Cherina, are inspired by the traditional Chinese philosophy of yin and yang, the twin origins of the universe, with contrary/complementary characteristics. The "Onona" sculptures are also in pairs, on meaning "he" and ona meaning "she" in the language of the southern Balkans, says Cherina who compares them with yin and yang.

Many of the original wood sculptures have been enlarged and cast in bronze. The "Onona" sculptures also make us think of past and future, the balance between man and nature and they carry a warning about environmental destruction.

"I hope that my works can help people open their minds and see things differently with their imagination," says Cherina. "You have to pay nothing for it, but your smile."

Date: October 17, 3:30pm (opening); October 17, 2007-October 17, 2008

Venue: JenSen Museum, 1568 Huqingping Highway, Qingpu District

(Shanghai Daily October 12, 2007)

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