Wu Wei-shan is President of the Chinese Academy of Sculpture, and Director of the Academy of Fine Arts of Nanjing University. Since 1998, his sculpture and paintings have been exhibited in Britain, the USA, Canada, Holland, South Korea, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. He has won the Royal Pangolin Prize of Britain.
Over his 20 year career, Wu Wei-shan has created over 500 statues of historical and cultural figures at home in China and abroad. He is a pioneer and advocate of the new style of ‘freehand sculpture’, a technique which seeks to integrate the concept of traditional Chinese philosophy with aesthetics and, says the artist, to “carry forward the spirit of Chinese culture through innovative art forms”. The freehand technique lies between realistic depiction and abstractness, featuring exaggerated imagery of the form and a textural imagery of the body’s indistinct undulation. Wu describes the characteristic of freehand sculpting as lying in “enabling the spirit between man and matter to transcend solidification and materialization, and possess an enormous appeal.”
Confucius is a prime example of Wu’s freehand depictions of notable figures, many of which are ancient scholars and artists. The work employs elements of more realistic Western sculpting techniques in realizing the legendary yet often indistinct figure of Confucius in physical terms, vividly portraying a high forehead, elongated ears and long beard. Wu’s representation of this iconic symbol of Chinese culture is inspired by the grotto-sculptures of ancient China. His focus is upon the steadiness and balance of the mass, as well as the sense of spirituality it invokes, achieved by “forsaking physiological structures and paying attention to the proportion of weights.” This ancient method, says Wu, “is the musical note of life in our culture, and the simple expression by ancient craftsmen of their perceptions of heaven, earth and man.”