Michael Binkley at the Changsha International Sculpture Symposium, China
Michael Binkley represented Canada at the inaugural Changsha International Sculpture and Arts Festival in 2014 that was held in Changsha, Hunan, China in 2014.
Binkley joined 20 other sculptors from 17 different countries in the city of Changsha, Hunan, China from September 15 to October 30 and each realized a monumental sculpture for the city’s public art collection. Binkley carved a granite sculpture he titled “Look to the Horizon.”
The Festival consisted of not only the creation of art works, but there was also an intensive cultural exchange element of exhibitions, artist lectures, student / artist interaction, tour excursions and corporate presentations.
The opening and closing ceremonies for the Festival were conducted in a purpose build open air theatre at the Plaza of the Bulls in Yanghu Wetland Park, an ecological reserve created specifically for the beautification and wellbeing of this provincial capital city. Pictured is Lei Yixin, the founding sculptor of the Festival centre stage welcoming all the artists during the Opening Ceremonies. Lei is a Chinese national treasure who has received much recognition for his work “Stone of Hope,” the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC, USA.
The sculptors visited Shaoshan, birthplace of Chairman Mao Zedong and they paid their respects by laying a floral wreath at the foot of Mao’s statue. Though a very controversial figure outside the country, he is a revered figure within China.
Binkley was selected to speak on behalf of all the sculptors at the opening of the duel exhibition of the sculptor’s smaller works and the paintings of another Chinese national treasure, Li Zijian. This exhibition opened on October 1, 2014 which is the National Day of China.
Each sculptor made a presentation of a lecture about their work to students at various universities. Binkley presented to an auditorium at the Hunan Normal University, Changsha’s smallest university which has 80,000 students.
The sculptors were treated to an afternoon on Li Zijian’s private yacht for a cruise up the Xiangjiang River before moving on to a dinner party as his penthouse home and studio 60 floors above downtown Changsha. Li is known for his subject matter of the rural life of China and uses his wife and children as models. Pictured are the sculptors with Li (standing centre in black), Mrs. Li (in coral floral dress) and their daughter Adele (black dress, right) in Li’s painting studio.
The sculptors toured to the Zhangjiajie National Forest to see the Tianmen Mountain and cliffwalk (left and right) and the Wulingyuan Mountains (centre), which were the inspiration for the floating mountains in the movie, “Avatar.” They also visited the World Heritage Site of Phoenix Town, where life as it was 300 years ago is preserved today.
Although the sculptors had to work for 45 days straight, with only four days reprieve for tours, there was time for socializing in the evenings. The Festival’s main sponsor was the Changsha Pilot Investment Holdings Co. Ltd. (CPIH) which is responsible for the massive development of the city. To showcase their various development plans, CPIH held several evening dinner parties with a preamble presentation of scale building models, in depth descriptions and brochures and stage show entertainment that usually included dancing afterwords. But the hosts were very respectful of the sculptor’s work schedule and no party lasted past 8:30pm – ever.
Pictured bottom left is Binkley with CPIH executives in front of the artist’s completed “Look to the Horizon.” On Binkley’s right is Liu Jixiong, CPIH Chair and CEO, Ma Sian, General Manager Binjiang New City Development and Zhong Jiarong, Vice General Manager Yanghu Wetland Development. On Binkley’s left is Gao Hong, Executive Director, Yanghu Wetland Development. Flanking all are Fredrick Ding and Song Yating, senior CPIH translators to the Festival.