Sculpting a legacy

By Wang Kaihao/Wang Yiran | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-17 07:19

Sculpting a legacy

[Photo provided to China Daily]

"Many people cling to the archetypical idea that (traditional) fine art shouldn't change over time. However, Niren Zhang advocated creativity even in its earliest days."

Zhang expects the modern-looking gallery in Beijing to nurture new thinking about, and a globalization of, traditional fine art.

He still runs an old-fashioned workshop in Tianjin that operates according to the master-apprentice model.

"I wish people would view Niren Zhang as something that belongs to today's world-not only to the past," he says.

"Traditional art is just another form of expression and isn't defined by chronology."

Yet some aspects remain unchanged. The raw material is still produced using clay mixed with cotton and is stored in cellars for three years until it's ready to be shaped.

And Zhang still prefers to sculpt historical figures.

"I felt strange when I created figures wearing modern clothes. Historical characters are better to show typical Chinese style," he says.

"When people see figurines of historical figures like Laozi (a sixth-century BC philosopher who founded Taoism), they can retreat to tradition and apply old wisdom to solving contemporary real-life problems."

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