Reaching out to the World and Looking for China——Observation on the Serial Sculpture Embrace of Love
Source:artintern Author:Sun Zhenhua Date: 2014-05-27 Size:
Since entering the 21st century, the most important academic trend of Chinese sculpture is, reaching out to the world and looking for China.It seems that they are two different development directions, but they actually have internal consistency.


  Since entering the 21st century, the most important academic trend of Chinese sculpture is, reaching out to the world and looking for China.

  It seems that they are two different development directions, but they actually have internal consistency.

  Reaching out to the world is the theme of contemporary China. One of the goals of the efforts of the Chinese contemporary sculpture is breaking closed cultural isolation, going abroad and participating in the international dialogue to highlight their own national identity in the communication and dialogue with other nationalities and cultural dynamics.

The saying "reaching out to the world" was ever questioned: where is the world? Isn't China is not a part of the world? Yes, the world is consisted of so many, many countries like China, but this is only "the world" of the geographical concept. In terms of culture, over the past long period, because of its own reason, China didn't participate in the platform for international cultural exchange and dialogue due to its relative isolation. If China does not go onto this platform, nor familiarize the game rules of this platform, it will be even unable to make a dialogue, let alone influence and change its game rules.

  Since 2000, Chinese sculptors have made their appearance not only in their personal identity, but also in the collective capacity, on the international sculpture stage, which is an important signal. With China's economic ascent, cultural China should also rise on the international stage.

  The opposite end of reaching out to the world is looking for China.

 Looking for China is actually the logic extension of reaching out to the world. What do China reach out to the world by? Reaching out to the world is not to turn to cultural convergence. In an globalized era, in the aspect of fashionable and popular culture, we can really see the partial convergence of the international culture; But on the other hand, the process of globalization can produce another kind of motivation, which in turn strengthens the cultural value and special charms of different areas and different nationalities.

  This is because the process of globalization is a process of finding, discovering and affirming the differences, and also a process of cultural exchange and dialogue between different types and different characteristics. We said, " Only the nation is the world", meanwhile, " Only the world may be the nation "the nation and the world, are the problem of the two sides of one item, without the nation, there will be not the world; without the world there will be not the nation, either. In Chinese contemporary sculpture, the actual target of the two-way movement of reaching out to the world and looking for China actually leads to a common cultural goal: the attempt to display their own value of Chinese culture on the international stage.

  If this view may hold water, Liu Yonggang's serial sculpture with the name of Embrace of Love consisted of more than one hundred, is an important phenomenon in the 21st century contemporary sculpture of China, because they exactly coincide with the academic direction of the Chinese sculpture and looking for China. The successful creation of Embrace of Love large series of the sculpture provides a case and model worth studying for the academic direction.


  In the case of reaching out to the world, Liu Yonggang crossed oceans in the early nineties last century to study art abroad. Liu Yonggang 's once studying oil painting and accepting the strict realistic training in the Central Academy of Fine Arts made him get good results many times in domestic oil painting exhibitions.

  Liu Yonggang engaging on realistic oil paintings turned to abstract paintings creation in foreign countries. This change, on the one hand, made him better understand and absorb western modern art resources; on the other hand, learning the western modern art in turn prompted him to deepen the understanding of the east, which is a very interesting.

  The rational factors of the German art and abstract paintings are perhaps an important opportunity of his later making eastern characters three-dimensional.

  In Liu Yonggang's view, every character of Chinese nationality has its aesthetic feeling, is an independent images; Also Admittedly, even if it has pictographic significance, all the characters are after all a kind of withdrawing from images. So, both experiencing the beauty of sensibility to characters, at the same time, can withdraw the abstract beauty from its structure, form and designing curve-outline, these should be the important nourishing got by Liu Yonggang in the process of receiving the art edification abroad .

  Before going abroad, what Liu Yonggang studied and grasped was western-style oil painting language. Liu Yonggang's early oil painting mainly showed the national life, this is the first time he faced the collision between the Chinese and western cultures in his personal creation history. In the process, he had received certain success. But the collision is still limited.

  After going abroad, he turned to the western modern abstract paintings. As a Chinese, especially one with strong Chinese cultural complex, it is bound to perform and combine the deep emotion of oriental culture in his painting art, this is a deeper cultural collision.

  When the abstract painting could not express the feeling of cultural collisions between his personal and western culture more incisively and vividly, he needed to find new carrier, the ideographic nature and the formal sense of Chinese, Phags-pa script and Mongolian themselves, especially the sense of the national identity and Oriental means agglomerated by the characters can transform them into the three-dimensional art more than reflect in the oil paintings in a degree. This transformation will not only realize the integration of the different types of art, more important is, it also has the symbolic significance to let the Chinese culture to reach out to the world, and stand up.

  The learning experience abroad fostered Liu Yonggang's the awareness of digesting, combining and compatibility, which is he benefited from the learning process abroad. From wide view of modern painting, some Chinese artists studied, created and gained great achievements abroad, such as Zhao Wuji, Zhu Dequn, Xiong Bingming etc, whose characteristics are nothing short of thoroughly knowing and integrating both western art and traditional Chinese one. So, without Liu Yonggang's personal “reaching out to the world”, perhaps there wouldn't be the opportunity of finding the problem, grasping the problem and making the characters three-dimensional in the comparison of the Chinese and western culture and in the grander vision.

  To view Liu Yonggang through the point of view of reaching out to the world, the context and the foundation of his nationality in his Embrace of Love series sculptures was clear-cut. At the same time, his sculpture is also a kind of "international language", that is, when his sculpture appeared in the international background, on the one hand, can be appreciated and accepted with its distinctive oriental characteristics by other nationalities. On the other hand, it is also not limited by the east color. For example, when Embrace of Love was magnified and placed in the public space, it is able to fit with the outdoor environment with oriental features, but also integrate outdoor environment with the western characteristics. The adaptability of environment should be decided by “international "character.

  In comparison, some of the domestic sculptors also tried to make Chinese cursive script three-dimensional and be transformed into sculptures. But this kind of trials themselves stuck in the Chinese characters themselves is limited by the ornamental surface of the pattern structure and three-dimensional characters and so on, attracting no wide attention.

  The most prominent characteristic of Liu Yonggang's Embrace of Love series is, they headed from the characters, and don't get stuck to characters; they are related to the pictographic characters, but can also disjoint from pictograph; He added many personal's creative factors in the modeling based on the characters; This makes the sculpture modeling both look like a character, and not quite like the character. This characteristic also makes his work have the higher degree of freedom and less restrictions and limit. This feature can give his art creation ingredients full play. We believe that, as soon as Liu Yonggang's works enter the international stage for communication, they will be more handy and skilled.

When the Chinese sculptors and sculptures reach out to the world, they still faced such problems: Do we move our ancestors' works intact to the world or creatively comb, process and transform the original cultural tradition and resources in the background of international cultural communication and dialogue, reaching out to the world in the face of the cultural innovation? What Liu Yonggang chose was the latter. Liu Yonggang's creative practice proved this kind of ways was right; it was helpful for creatively putting the Chinese culture forward, but not hidebound and stodgy.

  Only by transforming the traditional culture boldly and creatively, injecting Chinese culture with new vitality and life, can Chinese culture really reach out to the world. In this respect, Liu Yonggang's experience is worth using for reference.


  Liu Yonggang's demonstrating significance mainly reflects in "looking for china.”

  This is related to the dilemma: after Chinese sculpture entering the 20th.century. "Looking for China" is the unsolved problem of china sculpture in the twentieth century, also the tough issues to be solved in the 21st century.

  In the early twentieth century, when the western sculpture entered into China, the Chinese native sculptural tradition broke, and a kind of foreign language and form dominated China.

  In spite of all kinds of the efforts by the Chinese sculptors since the 20 century, the whole circumstances are far from satisfactory. For a very long time, it should be said that the sculptures in fact didn't produce the deep contact with Chinese culture, Chinese living condition and inner world. It can't be an especially powerful means for Chinese to show the problems, thought and feelings in them.

  The result of this situation is two aspects: first, it's hard for Chinese sculpture to shake off the influence of foreign cultures, first learning from French type, then learning from the Soviet one, learning western modernism and postmodernism after the reform and opening up. How Chinese sculpture constructs their own system in the learning process has been the existing problems. Second, the Chinese sculpture didn't find the appropriate mixture with the Chinese society, the Chinese culture, the Chinese living experience and cultural tradition; Chinese sculpture didn't link with China's realistic living experience or form corresponding relationship.

  The Standing Characters by Liu Yonggang apparently found a channel into the depths of the Chinese culture for China's contemporary sculpture, and converted character resources into sculpture modeling ones along with combining with the individual creation, and all these bring the new weather to the contemporary sculptures.

  Looking for China is looking for the Chinese way of the contemporary sculptures. No doubt there are many strategic choices in the overall direction. In many of the strategies, some Chinese sculptors tend to choose the traditional sculpture schema; some focusing on ancient, minorities, folk customs, folk life; Some focusing in transforming the theoretical resources from Chinese ancient philosophy and aesthetic ideas into images...... and so on.

  Among all sorts of different ways, Liu Yonggang found other creative outlets and chose characters. Language is our home, and a nation's character is the most profound, the most stable, and the most enduring symbols of depositing, concentrating and condensing the national cultural psychology. Within a nation, the sensitivity to the characters is enough to make it become the representation of most embodying the national emotion, national identity, the national end-result. The character modeling can produce a wealth of image associations by means of the difference among everyone's life experience among the readers; at the same time, the abstraction of the characters makes it inclusive and transcendent, and to be able to get rid of the restrictions of the specific image, with independent sense of the form.

  In the process of exploring the national cultural resources, there has been a misperception in some artists' one-sidedly interpreting the Chinese cultural resources as Chinese national cultural resources. In fact, other minorities living in China's vast land are also a part of the Chinese cultural family, they all dedicated their wisdom and results for the Chinese traditional culture. Most amazing for LiuYonggang is, he gets rid of the restrictions of the narrow national theory, combining the Mongolian, Phags-pa script and Hanzhuan. In the art creation he consciously reflects the sense of wholeness of the big family of Chinese culture and the diversity of national resources.

This is a kind of breakthrough of method. In this sculpture series, Liu Yonggang reflects a kind of direction deserving affirmation, which is regarding the multiracial culture as a wholeness, this kind of new thinking ways for treating national tradition is especially contemporary; Its practical significance shows up that, it will effectively re-determine some of the limitations and deviation in the process of absorbing national traditional resources.

  Also looking for China, Liu Yonggang's thought and method have obvious breakthrough, his pointcut, his language form and his methodology, put the individual efforts to the construction of the Chinese sculptural cultural system.


  In the sculpture art, Liu Yonggang's Embrace of Love series reflected the following features:

  First, stress the tradition of Chinese sculpture with an emphasis on lines.

  Line, is not only an important performance means of Chinese painting, but also the important performance means of Chinese traditional sculptures, by comparison with the western sculpture on this point, the Chinese sculptures seemed to stand out. The Chinese ancient excellent sculpture works almost reflect the characteristics with an emphasis on lines, while the western sculpture more focuses on volume and mass.

  The main source of schema of Liu Yonggang's sculpture is Chinese characters, but the characters are modeled with lines, even if the characters are turned into three-dimensional, the three-dimensional characters still keep the linear characteristics. Therefore, Liu Yonggang's Embrace of Love series sculptures have a very prominent national characteristic of Chinese sculptures.

  Second, better solve the problem of all-round observation produced by the character three-dimensional.

  Compared with painting art, the greatest characteristic is it can be watched from all-round. Line formative characters are transformed into three-dimensional sculpture, the first difficulty it comes across is that how to make it in the positive, side and opposite side look ornamental. In this question, having made many trials, Liu Yonggang basically solved the problem. For example, the side of the modeling of characters such as Embrace of Love series has both the big unification and different changes, which are not blunt, but are reflected in the beautiful curve.

  Of course, the obtaining of the freedom is tied to the form sense and rhythmical sense that didn't stuck to the modeling of characters, but mobilize the modeling art itself.

  Third, Embrace of Love series sculpture has strong space adaptability.

  This group of Embrace of Love sculpture of Liu Yonggang, can either be exhibited as the artistic sculpture in high quality within the showroom; they can also work as outdoor sculpture, making connections with specific environment and architecture. They can be placed outdoors in large quantities, producing stunning visual effect. They can even be exploited as small gifts and small souvenir. As long as the effect of the processing technology can catch up with, the prospects for use of the formative sculpture in space are very broad.

  Fourth, the Embrace of Love serial sculpture also has the very strong ductility in the materials, the shape of the ductility.

  From Liu Yonggang's ongoing new exploration, Embrace of Love series is only a part and a stage. As sculpture creation with the characters as the schema source, they have a good ductility, and the space for further development.

  This kind of ductility reflects in two aspects, one is the ductility of materials; the other is the ductility of the shape. The materials at present are mainly stone. From the existing works, the category of the stone is different, the processing technology different, the resulting visual effects are also different. Liu Yonggang's works can also be used to all kinds of the tests, such as wood, metal and so on. It is believed in the future experimented with different materials; it will give new charm to these works.

  In modeling, due to the richness of character resources itself and the ability of author's modeling and imagination, there should still be enough space to develop. At present the latest model of the author reflected the characteristics. We believe that as long as the author keep on working hard, he will contribute a series of successful sculpture works to China's sculpture, a brand new sculpture schemata.

Related Links:

[Editor] 曹英