The international woodcarving collaboration is to convey the concept of harmony between man and nature through a sculpture. The project aligned eleven international artists from nine countries with ten Chinese artists, which in itself is a wonderful expression of harmony.
IWCS invited Terry Martin, chair of Turners Without Borders of American Association of Woodturners to lead this collaboration as project manager. He was the artistic director of the Irish Stone Wall Project last year. Two leading Chinese carving artists, Gongbo Gao and Wentu Feng, also joined the group as artistic directors.
To kick off the improvisation project, firstly, they discussed the ways and means of carrying out the mission. Taking the communication difficulties into consideration, the participants decided to divide the group into two teams, international and Chinese.
Chinese artist Xinhua Ma proposed an idea of “the gate of arts” to symbolize a doorway for the harmonious interplay of various cultures. Surprisingly, British artist Louise Hibbert came up with the archway idea at the same time. More innovative and intensive discussions have been generated since.
The artists spent plenty of time to work out the best way to collaborate with artists of varied cultural backgrounds. Moreover, it took longer for the international artists to adjust to the new working environment in a foreign land. Thus, the time frame left for the project was very limited by the time they started to build their structure.
The Chinese team saw the arch itself as a bridge of transformation from the Stone Age to the Industrial Era. The idea matched up nicely with the original intention of the international team who designed the arch. Thus, some artists fixed up the surface of the structure to embody the transforming process; others adorned the arch with carved rocks, flowers and birds that implied a sense of primitive living and being.
There were undoubtedly some anxious moments during the undertaking, particularly when the deadline was impending. However, the artists took on the real challenge with perseverance, mutual trust and professionalism. As a result, of their efforts to transcend cultural and language barriers as well as technical difficulties, both sculptures illustrated a clear breakthrough in artistry and techniques beyond their usual approaches.
Each of the Chinese talents had a significant role to play much like the international team. “It’s not a challenge to creativity, but to the way of thinking. We have to think outside the box,” said the Chinese artist Guohua Wang, “The tool is used for mind-sculpting instead of wood-sculpting.”
After the structures were built and switched, the international team attempted to tap into the transition from nature to a man-made modern world through the Chinese gate. They added panels and objects to the gate and virtually left the structure intact except the crossbeam. Each worked on an individual piece to interpret the stages of the transition that was symbolically originated from a sprouting seed.
The installation of the gate was breathtaking. It was rich with allusions to the progression from nature to the mechanical and filled with ingredients of classic and contemporary savors within the works.
The synergy of the multi-national group contributed to the accomplishment of the harmony project that connected and resonated with wood, cultures and people. Throughout, all participants gained fresh perspectives that they wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise.
“It’s a wonderful adventure.” said Terry Martin. The two teams have joined forces to challenge their typical thinking and carving with a success. The fruitful outcome, not only marked the advancement of international woodcarving collaboration, but also served as an overture to the inauguration of 2014 World Wood Day.