The Creation of Look to the Horizon

• public art collection of Yanghu Wetland Park, Changsha, Hunan, China

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Michael Binkley was invited as the only representative of Canada to the first annual Changsha International Sculpture Art Festival 2014. The Festival was held from Sept. 15 – Oct. 30, 2014 at the Yanghu Wetland Park in Changsha, Hunan, China. This 45 day cultural event was sponsored by the Changsha Pilot Investment Holdings Co. Ltd. and included cultural exchange between 21 artists from 17 countries, and local university students, government officials and the general public. Each artist produced a monumental sculpture in stone or metal for the permanent public art collection of Changsha and are now displayed in Yanghu Wetland Park. The stone sculptors created their pieces in the Park, allowing the thousands of Park visitors to the event an opportunity to see how stone sculpture is produced.

Each artist was required to submit a minimum of two proposals for a sculpture, and the Organizing Committee chose one of them. To the left is the sketch Binkley submitted for his proposal that was chosen for him to carve. Each artist then had to produce and ship a scale model of their sculpture to Changsha, so the Festival could rough out the sculpture. This was to ease the workload for each artist once they arrived to the Festival. Pictured is the scale model Binkley carved from grey modelling foam.

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada granite male female nude changsha hunan china yanghu wetland park

Stone ankles cannot support weight the way flesh and bone ones can. Over the centuries, sculptors have used props such as a tree trunk beside a leg to support a standing figurative piece. Binkley chose a contemporary form of sweeping curved webbing that help support the two figures of “Look to the Horizon,” as the piece is designed to be free standing.

Binkley worked everyday from 9:30 – 5:00, with only one day holiday and four days away for cultural excursions. The weather in Changsha for the duration of the Festival was hot and humid, with temperatures reaching 36C. There were only two afternoons when a few drops of rain fell, but they were swallowed by the parched earth. The skies were mostly clear and sunny. The artist found it a challenge to work in these conditions, as there was little shade to cover him and his 12 foot tall sculpture. And there were challenges, such as his air hammer breaking. He managed to avoid illness, something many other of the artists succumbed to. Despite the working conditions, Binkley was in his element. Not having the interruption of clients, the phone, email and the Internet, he was able to concentrate solely on carving stone. Eat, sleep, carve!

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada granite male female nude changsha hunan china yanghu wetland park

Part of his contract was to demonstrate to the public how stone sculpture is produced. Fortunately, Binkley is not shy or insecure about working in front of an audience. A good thing, as it was estimated that over 250,000 visitors, both locals and tourists came to the Park to watch the artists work.

Binkley dealt with a major obstacle of his pneumatic air hammer breaking, and found it a frustration to learn that, although China makes almost everything the world needs, Changsha does not have stone sculpture tools for sale! The sculptor had to muddle through a few weeks with only a clunky automotive impact gun he bought at a local tool market. Thankfully, Michelle Binkley arrived with a week to spare with a replacement air hammer. Binkley finished his sculpture with one day to spare, and then the rain began to fall – hard! He considers himself lucky.

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada granite male female nude changsha hunan china yanghu wetland park

Binkley thoroughly enjoyed the Festival. Meeting talented sculptors from around the world, experiencing the culture of Changsha and of China for the first time were memorable moments. The Organizers and volunteers were all very kind and generous people making the Festival a great success.

Michael Binkley