Sculptor Wu Weishan may epitomize the new spirit of sculpture in China today, said Anthony Stones, president of the Britain's Society of Portrait Sculptors.
Wu, professor of sculpture and director of the Sculpture Art Institute at Nanjing University in East China's Jiangsu Province, received the Pangolin Prize last month in London at the Royal Society of British Sculptors's annual open exhibition. He became the first Asian sculptor to win the prize.
The Pangolin Prize is a bronze casting to the best non-member newcomer in the exhibition.
His award-winning sculpture "Sleeping Child" was highly praised for its blending of Chinese traditional and Western styles.
"It was modelled during a visit to a friend's house," Wu said. The friend's child had been unwell and crying for most of the day but had later fallen asleep with his mouth open because he had difficulty breathing through his nose.
Portrait sculpture as understood in the West is less than 100 years old in China. Starting in 1910, Chinese students began to go to Paris to study portrait and figure modelling. In addition to this first French influence, Russian stylistic influences were seen in the 1950s and '60s.
In his artistic careers, Wu Weishan has returned to the Chinese tradition of "establishing an indigenous stylistic approach to portrait and figurative sculpture", Stones commented in his article "Sculpture in China 2003", published in a special journal last month for the exhibition.
Born in 1963 into a family of calligraphers, Wu is a pre-eminent sculptor of his generation in China. He has a reverence for tradition and philosophically looks back to Confucian principles.
Over the past 10 years, he has created sculptures of more than 200 heads of state, scientists, painters and other celebrities.
Wu became the only Asian to be accepted as a member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, a 92-year-old organization, and as an international member of the 50-year-old Society of Portrait Sculptors.
(China Daily June 20, 2003)