publication of the International Sculpture Center
|Changchun Sculpture Symposium
by Richard A. Heinrich
On July 15, with the theme of Friendship, Peace, and Spring, 80
sculptors from 52 countries began their work at the 2001 Changchun, China Sculpture
Symposium. This year marked the fifth and final symposium for Changchun, a northern
industrial city of seven million people. The city, after years of physical neglect,
is rebuilding itself, block by block, and also constructing a sculpture park.
It boasts the largest automobile works in China and is home to a major motion
picture production facility. In a moment of inspired city development, the managers
of the City Planning Bureau conceived of building a huge public sculpture park.
Over the course of five years, the planning committee invited nearly 300 international
and Chinese artists to come to a city work site to produce work for the new
park. Working and living together in a hotel adjacent to the work site for 10
weeks each summer, they produced stone, steel, and bronze pieces. The fruit
of this labor can be enjoyed (temporarily) in Shengli Park in Changchun until
the new sculpture park at the outer edge of the city, opens in 2003.
Richard A. Heinrich and Tang Limei of the Meizi Sculpture
Studio and Hongyou Arts Decoration Co., with the Changchun sculpture assistants.
Sculptors find commonality in their physical involvement with hard and resistant
materials. A block of granite becomes a head or a family group. Lumps of clay
become undulating bronze forms, and steel captures the essence of motion. In
three large tents, a dozen figurative sculptors used clay to construct pieces,
some nearly 12 feet tall. After three weeks of modeling, the clay was covered
with straw-reinforced plaster molds-a method used thousands of years ago to
produce the exquisite Chinese vessels we are so familiar with today. These sculptures
were then cast in bronze, and, amazingly, they were ready for the September
9th closing ceremony. In an open area adjacent to the modeling tents, blocks
of granite and marble were cut, split, and carved by sculptors and a crew of
200 Chinese assistants. The assistants were divided into smaller crews with
specific skills and tasks: stone cutters, mold makers, armature fabricators.
My piece and several others were constructed in workshops in Shenyang, a city
200 miles south that specializes in public art. I supplied a set of blueprints,
generated from a computer program in New York, taken directly from a bronze
maquette. The quality of the metal craft was exceptional and beyond anything
I could do myself. These steel pieces also were in place for the closing ceremony.
Richard A. Heinrich
2001, steel, 12' tall. Created at the Changchun Sculpture Symposium.
While sculpture symposia allow sponsors to acquire new works of art, the real
benefit is mostly intangible: the bringing together of artists who share ideas
and feelings and enjoy a sense of collegiality. It is a time when competition
and national differences are put aside.
For me, the only American representative, the symposium provided a unique perspective
on how sculptors make and view their work. Much of each day I spent in conversation,
often in highly accented English, with Russian, Hungarian, Mexican, Peruvian,
and Slovenian artists (to name just a few) who freely talked about themselves,
their countries, and what it means to be a sculptor. Communication was made
easier by the young translators who accompanied us all day. One afternoon I
listened as two sculptors spoke to each other using Russian, German, English,
and Chinese. With hands and smiles, apparently nothing was lost in the round-robin
translation, and the conversation ended with backslaps and handshakes. The poignancy
and fundamental importance of this interchange was brought home to me in an
unimaginable manner. I was to leave China on September 12th. I did not arrive
at my home in New York, 10 blocks north of the World Trade Center, until September
16th. I can only dream of what the world would be like today if international
relations were conducted in the same spirit as the interactions among the artists.
- Richard A. Heinrich
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