Sichuan sculptor helps charity Friday, May 1 2009
Fine arts institute professor donates bronze piece to help raise quake-relief funds, writes Celine Sun.
Boats and rivers are a constant source of inspiration for Sichuan sculptor He Liping, who was born and grew up on the banks of the Yangtze.
A professor at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, He is famous for works characterised by rich imagination, primitive simplicity and close connection to nature.
"Rivers and boats are part of my childhood memory," said He, 59. "The boat carries us to places afar, forever drifting in the river, like many uncertainties in our life."
The Old Boat, a bronze piece created in 1996, is representative of his work. It features two people embracing each other on the bow of a ship.
"Love can endure and survive all odds in life," He said. "With this piece, I hope people can feel the warmth and love in it."
He has donated The Old Boat to the South China Morning Post's Homes for Hope project, which is helping two earthquake-hit villages in Sichuan province rebuild houses and infrastructure.
The sculpture and four other art pieces will be auctioned at a gala dinner to be held by the Post on May 12, the first anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake.
"I am familiar with the quake-hit areas, like Wenchuan and Yingxiu," He said.
"I went to these places to draw artistic inspiration almost every year. I am deeply attached to the people and culture there."
When Catherine Lam, marketing director of the Hong Kong-based Asia Fine Art Gallery, told him about the Homes for Hope project, He offered his full support.
Born with a natural interest in carving, as a little child in Sichuan He was fond of Buddha sculptures in temples in his hometown in Fengdu county.
As a teenager, he learned basic carving skills from a book and started to make his own sculptures, such as busts of Mao Zedong.
When the Cultural Revolution started to sweep the mainland, He, like many other young men, went to farm in a rural area.
In the following decade, he changed jobs many times, working on a forestry plantation and as a butcher in a slaughterhouse, a railway construction worker, a violin player in a local orchestra and a labourer in a cement factory.
Yet He never lost his love of sculpting. His talent was discovered by a sculpture teacher at the Sichuan Fine Art Institute who hired him as an assistant. He started formal studies at the institute in 1982 and earned the mainland's first master's degree in sculpting three years later.
In the 1990s, He gained a reputation for his "ghost city" series, featuring ghost images originating in the local legends and culture of Sichuan.
In recent years, nature and mankind have become his main themes.
Ms Lam said she was immediately attracted by He's works when she saw them. "He's art pieces boast a kind of classic beauty with the power to touch your heart," she said.
On the block
Artist He Liping
Title The Old Boat
Medium Bronze sculpture
Size 32cm high, 32cm wide and 70cm long
Year created 1996
Donated by He Liping and supported by the Asia Fine Art Gallery, based in Hong Kong
SCMP Homes for Hope: how you can give