As one of the first-generation of native sculptors cultivated in New China, Liu Shiming was admitted to the Beiping Fine Arts School (precursor to the Central Academy of Fine Arts) in 1946. During his study period, he was supervised by Wang Linyi and Hua Tianyou, some of the first generation of Chinese sculptors that studied in France. This study period features Liu Shiming’s acceptance and accumulation of Western sculptural language. Five years of study enabled him to integrate into the French academic school and Rodin’s modern ideas on sculpture.
However, after graduation, Liu Shiming gradually realized that the Western sculptural language could not fully deliver his thinking and emotions. He chose to follow his inner call, moving to remote villages in China’s Central Plains and engaging with people’s daily life at a lower level of society. By doing so, Liu was seeking a motif for his art creation during his visit around Henan Province and Hebei Province. The vivid figures from the area were deeply imprinted in Liu’s mind. He desired a language or a vehicle to carry and express themselves.
Liu Shiming started to work in the National Museum of China in 1974. During the time working there, Liu established and persisted in working on his artistic path, focused on the localization of sculpture. Since then, he began to return to China’s own artistic traditions and realized the emotion and connections contained in the techniques of “kneading” and “modelling” used in these works in the past clay and pottery sculptures. It was at this stage that Liu embarked on a unique path of sculpture based on the local context of China, namely the “Chinese Method” entitled by himself.
In 1980, he returned to teach in the Sculpture Department of CAFA. In CAFA’s electric kiln studio, he made more than a thousand pieces in fifteen years. Then in 1995, Liu retired from CAFA and returned to the warmth of his family, continually creating sculptures at home until 2010 when he passed away. By creating numerous small-size sculptures featuring ordinary people’s life around him, Liu Shiming’s humanistic pursuit is able to be revealed.
Fan Di’an, President of CAFA once commented on the notion “Chinese Method” proposed by Liu Shiming. He mentioned that the “Chinese Method” focuses on returning and refining the aesthetic taste of the folk sculpture by paying attention to folk culture in China. From this “method”, the unique artistic techniques of traditional Chinese sculpture can be perceived.
Professor Shao Dazhen once commented on Liu Shiming’s art that he developed the sculptural language from ancient pottery statue techniques, but what he represented was contemporary life of his time. In Liu Shiming’s artworks including large-scale themed sculptures commissioned by the state and small-scale pottery statues depicting ordinary people’s everyday life and the development process since the establishment of New China are vividly reproduced.
Courtesy of the artist, translated by Emily Weimeng Zhou and edtied by Sue/CAFA ART INFO