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Transcending Aesthetics-the Sculpture of Wu Weishan

Professor Wu Weishan is a pre-eminent sculptor of the new generation, having found his artistic maturity after the opening-up of China in the 1980s and subsequent developments in the world of art. His sculptures are highly praised for the blending of Chinese traditional styles with elements of modern sculpture. He holds much reverence for tradition, and philosophically bases his works on an Oriental aesthetic standard. In addition to winning numerous international awards, he has been invited to various foreign academic institutions to lecture, thus greatly promoting the understanding in international cultural circles of Chinese culture and contemporary Chinese sculpture.


During his distinguished artistic career, Professor Wu has created several hundred sculptures, drawing from such diverse subject matter as the portrait, cityscape and religion. However, Wu's main work has been to sculpt head portraits for well-known figures, both historical and modern. Over the past years, he has made sculptures of more than 200 Chinese and foreign celebrities, including Qi Baishi, Fei Xiaotong, Chen Ning Yang and Shiing-shen Chern. In 1996, he was invited by the Dutch government to go to Holland and make a sculpture for the Dutch Queen Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard, who afterwards paid a special visit to see Wu and his works in Suzhou City, on the occasion of her official visit to China in 1999.



Portrait sculpture of the Dutch Queen Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard.


On November 8, 2004, the 82-year-old Nobel Laureate in Physics and professor emeritus of Nanjing University, Chen Ning Yang, arrived at Nanjing University library to attend the unveiling ceremony of his portrait sculpture. This work had taken Wu Weishan five years to conceive and finally finish. After this success, Wu made another two sculptures of the scientist which are displayed separately in Nanjing Museum and Tsinghua University, Chen Ning Yang's alma mater.



Wu Weishan's 16-meter-high bronze sculpture of Laozi in Jiangsu Province.


On October 11, 2004, the 94-year-old mathematician, Shiing-shen Chern came to Nanjing in order for Wu to sculpt his portrait. And before the mathematician's trip to Nanjing, Wu had already paid him a preliminary visit in Tianjin. For a sculptor such as Wu, aesthetic considerations are only part of the information he requires when sculpting his magnificent works-he needs to also talk to the subject, to find out that persons interests and passions, and to metaphorically speaking inside to the subject, before he can begin the creation a true-to-life representation. During their conversations, Wu felt he had touched upon the inner world of this mathematician. Then, with a small bamboo gavel in his hand, Wu began to capture the true spirit and vitality of the aged man sitting in the wheelchair in front of him...


The historic city Yangzhou has a 2,500-year history. To exhibit their pride in their long history and deep cultural roots, the Yangzhou people planned to commission sculptures of 10 citizens of significant historical achievement of past generations, to display on the square in front of the city museum. Naturally, this task of expressing the historical and cultural significance of the city was entrusted to the talent of Wu Weishan. Unveiled on the morning of April 14, 2005, Wu himself was surprised at the impact of his own creation, 'The sculptures appear more vivid than I had imagined in the studio!" He exclaimed, with tears in his eyes.


An exhibition of Wu Weishan's sculpture works was held on the occasion of the opening of the Wu Weishan Sculpture Studio, unveiled on June 28, 2005 at Qingdao Sculpture Art Museum. Also maintaining studios in Nanjing and Macao, this was Wu's third working studio to be opened.


During his artistic career, Wu has gained reputation both in China and abroad. The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology voted him the "Pao Yue Kong Most Prominent Artist” in 2000, and in 2002 he was awarded the "Gong Xueyin Outstanding Scholar Award"(awards set up by previous well-known artists) by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In 2003 he received the Pangolin Prize at the Royal Society of British Sculptors"annual open exhibition, and was selected as the only Asian since 1953 to be accepted as a member of the Society of Royal British Sculptors and as an international member of the British Royal Portrait Sculpture Association.



The Wu Weishan Sculpture House for Celebrities in Nanjing Museum.


In 1999, the Nanjing Museum set up the Wu Weishan Sculpture House for Celebrities, and a plaquard was specially inscribed for the occasion by Professor Chen Ning Yang. Mr. Anthony Stones, Chairman of the British Royal Portrait Sculpture Association, commended Wu Weishan as being "An outstanding Chinese sculptor who has established an indigenous stylistic approach to portrait and figurative sculpture."


(China Pictorial June 28, 2006)

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