By Zhao Jinwu
Liu Ruowang, a youth sculptor, has always focused on history, reality and the modern souls. His talent can be perceived from works like Red East, Heaven Soldiers, People, Asking the Heaven and Wolves are Coming. Some critics believe heroism is the prominent feature of Liu’s works, while in fact; aestheticism is also what he is after. Idealism and romanticism perfectly integrated in this young sculpture and artist. Liu presented grand and magnificent sculpture art before us in this era filled with low interest and mediocre pursuits. We are impressed by his majestic and powerful strength and feelings for ancient Chinese culture.
Drawing resources from traditional sculptures, Liu didn’t simply imitate their graphic patterns; what’s more, he used them for reference on the basis of thinking of the traditional culture as a whole. Liu’s works demonstrated rich Chinese characteristics with grand and magnificent oriental aesthetic traditions—original free brush style, decorative style of the tomb figures from the Qin dynasty, idealized designing style of the Buddhism, stereotyped exaggerative style of the Emperor’s graves and the plain expressive style of the general public. Liu dwells in his own imagination space, deliberately keeping a distance from today’s fashion. There are not only elements from the Han, Wei and Tang dynasties, but also modern passion in the old forms of all ages.
Artists share a feeling, a subconscious current of their lives that can be transformed into the passion for art and thus create various art images. That passion comes from living environment, education background, and natural instincts, but is determined by ideological level and art accomplishment. All these factors combined resulted in individual characters. When personalities ascend to aesthetic attitudes, works full of passion are created. Liu was born in Jiaxian County in northern Shaanxi—hometown of the great song The East is Red in the late 1970s. Rich and splendid civilization from the Yellow River and loess plateau provided him with plenty of creation materials. His works always remind me of that. Some critic often mentions his identity and his short stay in Beijing, which are important factors for his creation. As part of the Chinese culture, both loess land culture and emotion for the old city influence the artist deeply. Artists’ art resume is always a result of multi forces, combining identity, experiences as well as personal understanding and pursuit of art which is connected to a time’s aesthetic and cultural environment. The ultimate goal, however, is to truly reflect their attention, understanding, enquiry of the reality and modern souls. Liu’s works did well in that.
“Liu’s works all demonstrate a bursting vigor though in different forms and expressions. It must come from his youth ambitions as well as a rising Chinese nation. That’s the most valuable thing in such an era in want of faith. Like Liang Qichao once said ‘faith is sanity. It’s the vitality of both people and a society.’ ”said Yin Shuangxi, a well known critic. In my perspective, Liu’s works are pouring out of the strength and momentum like roaring storms, running waves, lightening across the universe and thunders rocking mountains. That’s what our time needs. Though Liu’s works are still “man-made”, there’s no doubt that he has found an art form closer to life and souls. Spirits vanish when artists treat grand proposition like “temporal spirits” with profiting attitudes. Art only transcend technical and art level when artists get lost in their own creation and spiritual experience. Liu’s works are created following his heart and that’s why his works exhibit a harmonious inner strength. They are neither pure and simple art works, nor “spiritual duplicate” against art, but aesthetic perceptions of soul. I remember Hegel once said such an aesthetic judgement: in symbolizing art, material forms weigh heavier than spiritual contents; classical art is the perfect combination of material forms and spiritual contents; in romantic art, spiritual contents weigh heavier than material forms. According to this classification, I tend to regard Liu’s works as romantic art. People perceived an ideal and passion of an era in Liu’s magnificent works such as The East is Red, Heaven Soldiers, People, Asking the Heaven, Wolves are Coming and Guard of Honor with Cars and Horses. Liu’s works are more about his emotions and ambitions. The appeal of sculptures not only comes from sculpture itself, but also from its connotations. There are ambitions fulfilled as well as failed. It is these cultural deposits that led Liu’s works to a splendid state of “a gale has risen and is sweeping the clouds across the sky”.
Liu’s works are not all solemn and stirring, his delicate ones are also heart touching. Gaoshi refers to the recluse don’t associate with undesirable elements. Their strong will of freedom and independence was revealed in Liu’s new work Portrays of Gaoshi series, choosing to “pay attention to one’s own moral uplift without thought of others” and “discard all desires and worries from one’s mind” instead of “taking care of the whole world”. These perfectly calm figures were like fairy gods with long faces, full cheeks, long mustaches and bamboo hats. Liu “Absorbed techniques of the ancient masters and expressed his own feelings through nature.” (Quoted Zhang Boju) Liu created images without entirely relying on forms, sounded without voices, transformed realism painting into free hand and lifted artistic conception to a higher level based on Chinese sculpture traditions. In image-creating, Liu employed both fine brush and free hand, taking care of both the square and round elements. He didn’t vividly imitate the clothes ripple in real life, but created a sense of volume with lines and surfaces, showing dynamic in a static motion. This skillful combination of lines and surfaces formed a visual effect more readily expressed the Chinese literati’s personal characters—amiable, kind, firm and persistent. It also resonates with Chinese ancient culture, which makes China’s conservativeness more apparent in an aesthetic sense. We see Liu is approaching the inner side of sculpture and expressing his inner spirits with sculpture language, growing more introvert with more prudence from his arrangement of Chinese elements—perfectly round appearances, simple designs and the unsophisticated atmosphere.
It reminds me of Bo Ya’s (Bo Ya, a musician in the pre-Qin dynasty) adept play of dulcimer seeing Liu’s new work Lofty Mountains and Flowing Water. In it, Liu skillfully blended traditional Chinese martial arts with soldier portrays of the pre-Qin dynasty—simple lines, round bodies, bronze color and concave-convex skins. Liu put the original roundness and classical serenity into an eternity of strength and condensed mobility, which reflected the esteem for human history and development as well as human’s strong vitality. A contemporary art charm was added into his work through those open gestures and the expression of mobility and stillness. You can’t help being led up to meaningful afterthoughts and lingering on without any thought of leaving when indulging yourself in those bronze sculptures. They are like running water, sometimes rapid, sometimes slow. Torrents in history witnessed numerous ups and downs in life. Observation and grasp of essence strike a balance. Like a giant dragon roaring into the sky or an awe-inspiring lion, the wisdom of human race made it possible to a long-lasting Chinese civilization. Liu’s works showcase an accumulated, plain and pure charm because he has a profound understanding of Chinese history and is sensitive and has a good taste about sculpture’s spatial language as well as its sense of form. This doubtlessly shows that Liu has mastered the essence of ancient Chinese fine cultures and traditional sculptures, and he applied it into his works well measured. Liu’s unique sculpture style has formed facing the contemporary reality with traditional Chinese aesthetic thoughts as the core, complemented with western romanticism and humanitarian aesthetic thoughts.
Sculptures have always been establishing aesthetic orientations between similarity in both form and spirits and only in spirits, while the wise man has been trying to make grafts between them and drawing on the strong points while deserting the weak points. Liu formed his “freehand brush” style—clear structure, meaningful design and implicit technique. The works demonstrated vigor and vitality with strength from inside and beautiful outside forms.
Today’s art calls for artists with deep thoughts about art and who are closely related with real life. Only thus can they create exciting and creative works. There is a long, hard journey to go for Liu who has already made some significant achievements. We believe he will keep striving to do better instead of quitting in front of flowers and honor and gain even greater achievements with his effort.