Observing beauty and being creative

Updated: 2013-08-08 06:38

By Shi Jing and Ding Congrong in Nantong, Jiangsu (China Daily)

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 Observing beauty and being creative

Zhu Jin's bark photos such as Sea (top) and Gorge (above) feature an appealing composition of Chinese ink painting. Photos Provided to China Daily

Observing beauty and being creative

Have you ever observed the bark of any tree closely and has it ever occurred to you that it can be a creative piece of art?

Zhu Jin, deputy mayor of Nantong, has turned the bark into the roaring Yellow River, peaceful and shining lakes or valleys. His works have taken the form of traditional Chinese landscape painting or woodcut.

His creativity was triggered during a business trip to Beijing in 2010, when he accidentally came across the bark of a white poplar that looked extremely special to him. He took pictures of the bark and upon arriving home, he turned the image into a woodcut.

Last year, the local government held a creative photography competition. The Nantong Photography Association found it difficult to collect enough creative photography works. Zhu decided to offer his bark photos.

Wang Xiaohui, a well-known photographer in Shanghai, finds Zhu's bark series amazing.

"I have not seen any other works of the same kind. It is so unique. I think he can further explore more bravely and come out with more works to show us the small details of great nature," she says.

Zhu creates his art pieces based on the texture of the bark.

"It is interesting to do postmortem of the work later. You will always have some different ideas. Even for the same tree, it displays a different look at a different time," he says.

One sixth of Zhu's time is spent on business trips. The time on the road provides him opportunities to review his works and rethink the materials to enhance his products. The bark series was shot in Beijing, Nanjing in Jiangsu province and Shenzhen in Guangdong province.

"The most important thing is observation. Feelings would arise from what you have seen. It is actually a reflection of a photographer's state of mind," he adds.

Zhu picked up photography upon graduation from high school, some 30 years ago. He is modest about his achievements, saying that he has not made much progress over the years. He is into photography for fun and to keep a record of his life.

"I seldom go to a place specifically to take photographs. Most of my works just came to me naturally, including my bark series. I usually take interesting images when I am on a business trip or when I am taking a stroll," he says.

While most people strive to be creative, Zhu says it should be the other way around: Being creative is not something one can arrive at on purpose.

Zhu, who started his career in 1982, says he has always been willing to learn and explore new territories. Over the past 30-plus years, the positions he has assumed include the director of the local legal bureau and later, supervisor of the local economic system reform. All the jobs were demanding and require creativity.

He was also in charge of urban construction in the government, mainly responsible for environment protection, a job he found very stressful.

His interest in arts has helped him in his urban construction work.

"We cooperate with experts in environmental art and urban sculpture to research some problems together. Such partnerships helped to attract some Nantong artists to take part in building the city into a better place to live in," he says.

Now in charge of culture and education, Zhu displays some of his works during exhibitions as a way to promote local activities and create public awareness.

He believes art also helps a person become a good leader, adding that leaders should be able to understand and interpret the human heart. "A leader's unique taste in art will help him or her develop the art of leadership. It also helps to enhance the person's personal charm."

His work is also in line with the central government's call to build a beautiful China.

"We should be keen to discover the beauty in our daily lives. The government's call is not only related to conserving and creating a good natural environment. It also implies that people's pursuit should be beautiful," he says.

"It is quite sad to see that most people working in this industry are eager to be successful in a haste. Sometimes it is hard to tell the value of a piece of art. Be it literature or painting, the essence is the pursuit of beauty. No matter how creative or different the artist boasts of his work, if it is not beautiful, it is not successful, as far as I am concerned," he says.

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(China Daily USA 08/08/2013 page10)