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A man carves a tree for four years and this is the sublime result


March 08, 2015

A Chinese sculptor has spent four years carving a 12-meter sculpture from a tree to recreate the famous painting Along the River During the Qingming.

It is known as “the Chinese Mona Lisa” due to its fame, but if we were to take into account its characteristics, it would better be compared with the spectacular landscapes of Peter Brueghel. Along the River During the Qingming Festival is the name of a Chinese painting attributed to Zhang Zeduan (1085-1145). Painted on a scroll, the picture reflects the daily life of the people of the Song dynasty with incredible accuracy, in the ancient capital of the empire known as Kaifeng. As with Brueghel’s paintings, the artist painstakingly portrayed the details of the clothes, architecture and attitudes of the era, with such detail that we can perfectly reconstruct from it how a festival day was in Kaifeng.

But it would appear that this virtuosity in the detail, and which would cause even the most skillful of the medieval miniaturists to faint, has not been an obstacle for the contemporary sculptor Zheng Chunhui to spend four years creating a replica in relief of the painting and remaining faithful to every detail. The work, a little over 12 meters long, is carved from an old tree trunk. Four years of disciplined work have resulted in a piece of colossal proportions and exquisite detail.

Furthermore, if we take into account the transfiguration of a two-dimensional work into a three-dimensional one, the piece required double the effort, which makes it much more impressive. Chunhui not only had to reproduce Zhang Zeduan’s majestic painting but to imagine all of those parts that are only hinted at in the picture by the visible parts of the objects.

a wood carving

In the sculpture we can appreciate the exactitude with which the sculptor has been able to give form to the objects and human figures, interpreting them volumetrically and giving order to the space and distances between them. Not only is the work worth praising but also the spatial vision and sculptural imagination. Each human pose, each fold in their clothes are respected and interpreted in the tree’s texture, each leaf and branch, in all their varieties, are transferred to the sculpture with meticulous accuracy. It’s surprising that a contemporary of ours could find the time and the patience to carry out such a task.

And yet there it is irrefutable proof that the size of our goals only depends on our patience and the strength of our determination. What are four years when we observe the miracle of a sculpture that brings together a whole human world in the heart of a simple tree?

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