Artists can turn even the most mundane of objects into a piece of wonder through their skills. Wood carving is an excellent example of such art. One example of this is a carving by Chinese artist Zheng Chunhui that is based on the well-known ancient scroll painting Along the River During the Qingming Festival (1085 CE-1145 CE). Incredibly, it was carved out from a single trunk of a tree.
Chinese wood carving
The original painting captures the landscape and the daily life of people who lived during the era. It has also been called the ‘Mona Lisa of China” because of how recognizable the painting is across the country. What makes Zheng’s sculpture version of the painting incredible is the fact that it is so intricately detailed that one would marvel at the work done to produce it.
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“He was a master craftsman but sadly this is the only piece of his work to have survived. But nevertheless, it is a remarkable piece… It’s the next best thing to experiencing it in real life, showing rich and poor about their daily business. In fact, there are 550 people in the carving,” a museum spokesman said to The Vintage News.
The artist spent close to four years of his life carving this work, which contains numerous buildings, boats, bridges, and several other structures. The wood carving is currently on display at the Palace Museum in Beijing, the very place where the painting it is based on is exhibited. The wood carving measures 12.286 meters in length, 2.401 meters in width, and 3.075 meters in height. At one time, it was regarded as the longest wood carving in the world.
However, that honor eventually was snapped up by two Polish artists, Miasto Hel and Robert Wyskiel, in June this year by carving out a 14.37-meter-long wooden sculpture. “The tree used for the carving was over 150 years old before being struck by lighting. The images of the carving depict scenes from a poem written by Julian Tuwim (Poland) entitled Rzepka,” according to Guinness World Records.
The art of carving wooden sculptures has a history going back centuries. In the olden times, artists used chisels, hammers, knives, gouges, etc., to carve out imagery on the surface of the wood. This was a time-consuming process. Today, modern tools allow for much faster, more precise, and minute carvings. But whatever tools are used, the creation of a wooden sculpture usually follows a similar process.
“The first step is to remove the excess of wood trying to obtain an outline of the final shape. The next steps involve more precise and detailed work. However, unlike stone sculpting, wood carving needs to chip according to the fibrous structure of the wood that is unique to each tree as it is affected by its growth,” according to the Covet Foundation.
Crafting wood sculptures is no easy task. What starts out with big tools ends up with small blades. Only those with incredible patience, dedication, and vision can turn a lump of wood into something that evokes amazement. Some even manipulate wood from living trees. The process involves controlling the growth of a set of trees in a predetermined manner so that they end up growing in the exact way that the artist intended.