The 17th CHINA CHANGCHUN INTERNATIONAL SCULPTURE SYMPOSIUM (2016)
In 2016 the Organising Committee in Changchun requested sculpture groups rather than just single sculptures. So I proposed three different sculpture groups. To my surprise, they selected THE KING AND QUEEN WITH THE REST OF THE CHESS FAMILY (Homage to the Greatest Sculptor of all). Unfortunately, they did not put the correct title on the plaque at the base of the sculpture. This organic design for a chess set is based on specific bones in the skeletons of animals. Obviously, the forms are not merely copied but changed/abstracted.
The idea for such a set first entered my mind way back in 1965 when I saw a bleached skeleton in the veld on my uncle Gert’s farm near Uitenhage. It took 51 years and a symposium in China to get the idea finally executed and placed in a lovely setting against a backdrop of gigantic rocks.
Only 13 international sculptors were selected for this symposium. Unlike the previous symposiums where we made our own sculptures, we were asked to send the maquettes to a sculpture factory in Beijing. On arrival there the bishop was in pieces, being unbaked clay, but they reconstructed it from the photos. All credit to them.
I asked that the King be 2200mm high. I suggested concrete blocks with ockre and black pigment for the board. They replaced my idea with these unbelievable beautiful 700 x 700 mm polished granite blocks in yellow and black. I was speechless when I stood in front of the final sculpture. I then knew what the expression ‘the dream has become reality’ meant.
This symposium was the highlight of my career as a sculptor.
2011 CHINA INTERNATIONAL SCULPTURE SYMPOSIUM
In 2011 I submitted (for the first time) proposals for sculpture symposia in China.
For the 12th China Changchun International Sculpture Symposium I submitted three proposals. My Study in Simplicity: 3-Piece Reclining Figure was selected. So off to China Edith and I went, skipping the Slow Boat to China and preferring the 747, again with the compliments of the Organising Committee.
All artists to China are treated as royalty. Our interpreter for this symposium, Stefanie (Deng Lihau, a 3rd year English major) welcomed us at the airport with a bunch of flowers. The best hotels, the best food and friendly treatment was the order of the day. But this was not to be a holiday - with military precision we were taken to the workshop every day - to work. And for once work on one’s own sculpture was a major pleasure.
For me this was some experience to be able to enlarge my bronze maquette to a lovely length of 3,200 mm. To assist me with the work, I was given an assistant Li Win, a 2nd year student in Industrial Design. A splendid helper he was, always happily working and smiling, not able to pronounce or understand one word of English…. But with the help of Stefanie all went well.
A team of very competent technical guys made fibreglass copies of all the clay sculptures for the exhibition at the end of the symposium. The final bronze sculptures were cast some time after the symposium ended. So I don’t have a good photo of the finished sculpture.
With all the time and clay on her hands, Edith kept herself busy by making two busts, one of Stefanie and one of Li Win. At the end we made the busts permanent in fibreglass as presents for the youngsters. Maybe they will remember us… Stefanie grew very attached to Edith. It was a rather sad story at the airport when we departed. So life goes on.
We made some good friends with the international artists attending the symposium. Bogdan Adrian Lefter and Nedim Hadzi Ahmetovic Mafa were also selected for the 17th Symposium in 2016 and that was some happy reunion.
It was an honour to represent South Africa at this symposium. About 100 artists from different countries were selected. Most amazing was the getting to know the Chinese work ethic and their hospitality. All in all a most grand experience.