Author: Zhi Min (Executive Vice-President of the Sculpture Institute of China National Academy of Arts, Doctoral Supervisor)
The “Twenty-Four Solar Terms” series of works is my creation since 2015. It has been going on for eight years, 15 works have been completed, and 9 works are still in the pipeline. This series of works is another series of creations after the 2011 “Hetu Luoshu” and the 2013 “Astronomical Four Gods” series. It allows me to further study traditional Chinese cultural concepts and continuously tap artistic creativity. Over the past ten years, with my own growth and experience, I have gradually formed my own views on materials and art, returned to my heart and mother culture in art creation, and began to establish my own artistic language.
Measuring Shadows with Standing Table (Sculpture) Zhi Min
“Twenty-Four Solar Terms – The Time Knowledge System and Practice Formed by the Chinese through Observing the Sun’s Annual Movement” was officially included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in November 2016. This is not only a recognition of the Chinese people’s respect for nature, compliance with the laws of nature, and the concept of sustainable development, but also brings the “Twenty-Four Solar Terms” back to the life vision of contemporary Chinese people, deepening people’s understanding of “where do we come from?” Awareness of philosophical issues. The establishment of the “Twenty-Four Solar Terms” is the contribution of Chinese civilization to world civilization. It is used to guide agricultural production and the rhythm of life, and at the same time establish the relationship between time and space, that is, the Eastern concept of time and space.
Twenty-Four Solar Terms – Awakening of Insects (Sculpture) Zhi Min
The positional relationship between the earth and the sun and the rotation of the earth form day and night; the inclination of the earth’s rotation axis and the law of its revolution around the sun form the four seasons. The twenty-four solar terms are the expression of China‘s unique view of time and space, philosophy and nature. When people got rid of the era of hunting and gathering and entered farming civilization, they had to look at the sky to eat and wait for the wind and rain. The study of “sky” became inevitable, understanding the laws of nature and the circulation of seasons, and mastering the knowledge of astronomy became necessary prerequisites. . It can be said that without astronomical knowledge, it is impossible to grasp the seasonal changes, and it is also difficult to create a brilliant farming civilization. My works such as “Twenty-Four Solar Terms”, “Standing a Table and Measuring Shadows” and “Watching the Time” are based on this expression.
Twenty-Four Solar Terms – Beginning of Autumn (Sculpture) Zhi Min
The concept of “Twenty-Four Solar Terms” is very abstract, and sculpture is a materialized form of artistic expression. How to present such a macro image of Chinese culture became a difficult problem in the early stages of creation. I regard the changes of the four seasons as the mutual growth and transformation of yin and yang. In terms of sculpture, I use two vague images to represent the power of yin and yang. They either separate, embrace, or support each other, showing the dynamic changes of the two forces. In the thousands of years of Chinese culture, it is full of exploration of the relationship between heaven and man, as well as the discussion of material transformation, displacement, and the relationship between two forces or states, such as heaven and earth, weight, size, beauty and ugliness, gathering and dispersing, ancient and modern… This relationship of yin and yang reincarnation, the unity of man and nature, and the co-operation of heaven and earth lead me into the vast source of culture.
In the next few years, on the one hand, I put my intuition into work, consulted the descriptions of the “twenty-four solar terms” in ancient books, observed the ever-changing nature, and gradually understood the production and lifestyle corresponding to each solar term; Through the exploration of the profound ceramic language, gradually establish his own artistic creation methodology. In terms of creative methods, I was greatly inspired by the structure rules of Chinese characters. The seemingly simple strokes in “Yongzi Bafa” form different Chinese characters in different combinations. Multiple characters become one word, with more complex meanings, and several words form a sentence. When the words and sentences are combined and transformed, the spirit, philosophy, and culture in the article are presented one by one. This principle is also very obvious in the architectural expression of Chinese brick and wood structures. Bricks and tiles can pave roads, build houses, and build walls, and wooden components can also form ingenious, meticulous and diverse structures like bucket arches. These methods of reorganization and deconstruction in Chinese culture have deeply inspired me. The work “Twenty-Four Solar Terms” uses ceramic components to create a structure that can be infinitely replicated and reconstructed, echoing the philosophy of Chinese cultural reconstruction and circulation. .
In December 2022, my sculpture “Twenty-Four Solar Terms – Beginning of Autumn” won the gold medal in the sculpture category of the 39th Florence Literature and Art Awards. I regard it as an encouragement to my personal creation. The judging committee mentioned in the reason for the award: Chinese artist Zhi Min’s sculpture “Twenty-Four Solar Terms – Beginning of Autumn” uses ceramics, an ancient oriental traditional material, as a medium to view the “solar terms” of agricultural civilization on Chinese land. The invisible gives form to the visible. This is a modern attempt to express “China Time”, which has warning, regression and calibration significance for today when human globalization enters “International Standard Time” and gradually produces spiritual difficulties.
In my opinion, the “Twenty-Four Solar Terms” series of sculptures is a medium for the exchange between Chinese culture and world culture, and it is the communication and mutual learning between human beings when they face the same nature and different cultural backgrounds.
Spring grows, summer grows, autumn harvests and winter hides, the cycle goes on and on, and life is endless. This is true of nature, and so is art.
“Guangming Daily” (version 09, March 19, 2023)