Pan He is another of the great Guangdong artists. Born into a well to do family, in 1925, before Mao came to power, he had the chance to travel and explore outside of China. His idols are, in fact, not Chinese: Michelangelo and Rodin. As a young boy, he already began making art, and at the age of 13 when his father said he should get a mentor to help hone his artistic skills, he told his father that the only one who could teach him was already dead for several hundred years: Michelangelo. In addition to sculpture, he also does watercolor painting, in the style of the West.
His work came to Mao's attention at the national art exhibition, in 1952. As a result, he was asked to make a sculpture of Mao for Mao's hometown. His concept pictured Mao, as a youth with longer hair. His commentary in doing that was to picture Mao when he was an idealistic youth, leaving Hunan to join the revolution in Guangdong, before becoming a tyrant. When he was asked to change it, he refused. Then, when making the sculpture of Mao that was awaiting assembly, he was accused of desecrating Mao, was put in prison, and was made to kneel in broken glass, and beaten regularly. Even then, he said he would not bow or grovel.
Today he is known as the Michelangelo and the Rodin of China. His larger works are prominently displayed in many cities in China, including Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Beijing, as well as major cities in many other countries. His rams sculpture is the symbol of Guangzhou. His sculpture of a fisher girl (shown, below) is a famous site on a rock in the ocean, off Zhuhai. His bull sculpture is the symbol of Shenzhen. Several sculpture parks are already dedicated to his work, in Guangzhou, and the province has just broken ground for a huge sculpture park and museum site for work. He tells us that friends clip items from the press for him to put in his scrap books, and, last year, alone, they clipped about 700 separate articles. He tells us that he creates art, only when he has something to say, although what he says is subtly veiled, so that the local authorities do not really pick up on it.
Several years ago when he was ill and bed-ridden, he spent the time creating small busts of men and women, turning out fifty original pieces, in all, some of which are now in our gallery collection. He tells us that colleagues and friends at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art ask him why he still can be seen working in his studio into the wee hours when he doesn't have to, and he tells them that it's not work: it's fun. He is everything that we think an artist should be. We are excited to be able to include some of his smaller works in our gallery collection.
You can see more of his art on our website at: http://www.leonacraig.com/catalogue_art_gallery/sculpture/pan_he_page.htm
Yuan Chong Huan, born in Guangdong, was a military leader, during the Ming Dynasty, who could not be defeated. During his early years, he had the chance to meet and interact with Jesuits and other foreigners, whereby he expanded his knowledge of the world. Eventually, he was sent to the northern front and was one of the first Chinese commanders to successfully incorporate Western military tactics into his battle plan. As a result, he was key in successfully defending against a number of attempts by the Manchurians to conquer China, in the 1600's. As he was undefeatable on the battlefield, in order to defeat him, his enemies spread rumors about his loyalty to the emperor. In fact, it took a hundred years before his name was cleared by the Qianlong Emperor.
In this piece, you can see the profound influence that Michelangelo's work has had on Pan. The sculptural style, along with the flowing robes and hair, remind me more of a Renaissance piece than one from twentieth century China. In fact, it is my favorite piece out of all of his sculpture, and the story behind the sculpture is a great example of the type of social and political commentary that Pan likes to make with his art: mesmerizing the eyes of those who see it, while touching the hearts and minds of those who also understand its deeper meaning.