By Keqiao Cheng, EDITOR
The flying eagle, the lovely puppy, the lifelike monkey, such root sculptures are all of the natural and rustic artistic charms. You cannot imagine that these exquisite artworks are creations of a farmer with physical disabilities until you see them.
Zhang Weixue, a root sculpture master with artistic pursuit more than a farmer with physical disabilities, endows the dried roots with life and soul by using graver, sharpener, chipper. He puts tree root as the paper and the graver as the brush to turn the dust into glory. He is deeply engrossed in skills and wrapped up in studies to give souls to the deadwood. With a pair of deft hands, Zhang engraves the spiraling dragon and soaring phoenix, as well as other beautiful things in the world.
“Look! This cup is my maiden work called ‘Singing Birds and Fragrant Flowers’. It was made around 40 years ago when I was 15 years old.” Zhang picks up an outmoded wooden cup from the shelf and introduces that he once had a dream of being a painter when he was in school.
He was also enthusiastic about hand making, which motivated him to make some gadgets like birds and dragonflies in free time for his younger sisters. One day, his second elder brother brought him a book about wooden carving, which opened a gate for him to a new world. From then on, Zhang has produced a strong interest in combining painting with hand making, and has spent two or three days to make the cup from a section of pinewood.
“I am disabled, but I am able to choose to live a normal life.” Zhang recalls. He suffered from polio when he was 5 years old, his spine and left leg are disabled, so he could only walk very slowly.
After studying wooden carving for one year or two, Zhang was prized by his neighbors for his works. Those who were building a new house would invite him to engrave patterns on the eave. Yet he had no idea of making a living at it at that time. For a living, Zhang, at his early age, has raised chicken and rabbits, and has planted medical herbs.
Until one day at the age of 39, Zhang was building a fire in the kitchen and occasionally found a tree root with a unique shape, which reminded him of his engraver left behind for years. In this way, Zhang embarked on a new journey with his passion for painting and plenty of imagination. Through book-reading and self-learning, Zhang has produced some presentable root sculptures. Since then, he has immersed in the root sculpting and persisted in doing this till now.
Well, Zhang Weixue, who was so attached to creation, became a widely known “root sculpture master” through self-taught and self-training in the past decades.
Zhang says, “I usually use the wooden materials, because they are very common in the village. Then I will turn them into things of value.” In every time of hunting for shapeable tree roots, he would consider what the root looks like and will look like. According to the original shape, the root would be first trimmed and then peeled, sculpted, grinded, polished, and lacquered.
The production of root sculpture is a process of creating based on the shape of the tree root. That is why the insiders have such a common sense that “70% depends on the works of God, while 30% counts on the work of man”. To sculpt cattle at the very beginning, he particularly visited his neighbor for observing the cattle’s expressions and behaviors. Now, the villagers, who misunderstood Zhang very much at first, send their tree roots to Zhang enthusiastically, which is the best proof that Zhang’s root sculptures have already been recognized by the neighbors.
Zhang also underlines time after time that “interest is the best teacher.” Thanks to his interest in root sculpture, he can stick with his favorite. “The root sculpting is always my favorite thing. I will keep sculpting even my works are unmarketable and create the most satisfying work of mine.” Zhang says. When there is something bothering me, I will stay with my works or try to make some, which can make me calm down. The root sculpture has been an essential part of my life.
When it comes to the future plan, Zhang expresses that he wants to pass on the root sculpture craftsmanship and let more people understand this profound art. He is willing to share the skills with more interested people, especially the people with physical disabilities, to enable them to earn a living by their own hands.
Source: Chongqing Evening News