It often seems that modern art often falls fallow into self satire, but it is a pleasant surprise to see artworks with craftsmanship that rival the great masters of the past in care and precision. Zheng Chunhui (郑春辉)’s terrific work in wood shows the realistic exactitude of a professional and the inspired flair of a dedicated artist.
Born in 1968 in Fujian Province, Zheng began as a painter in his childhood and didn’t begin working with wood until 1985. It didn’t take him long to carve out his own style with a particularly meticulous technique. His work ethic, combined with his inimitable talent, has taken him to the heights of his profession. However, Zheng is not just an award-winning and talented artist, he’s a Guinness World Record holder. He spent four years making a wooden replica of a famous Chinese painting called “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” (《清明上河图》). His original work gave a new, three-dimensional life to a 1,000-year-old painting that features the lives of both rich and poor during a small town festival.
Along the River During the Qingming Festival, 2013
The mind blowing artwork is around 12 meters long and contains over 550 individually carved characters, buildings, pavilions, mountains, rivers, boats, bridges, and even clouds.
The masterpiece sucks you into a tornado of emotions, looking at his work you can be forgiven for thinking you’ve been taken off with the fairies because this piece—considering its scale and complexity—is less of a moment in time and more of a movable universe. You hear the buzz of the bazaar streets, boats wading in the river, the birds in the clouds chirping.
Along the River During the Qingming Festival (close-ups), 2013
Precision is the watchword of Zheng’s work and it is what makes his work so distinguished: flowers and birds, animals and people, landscape and buildings— all done to an almost absurd degree of accuracy for this medium. One also can’t help but notice how Zheng uses the wood grains to his advantage, how life seems to spring from the wood. It is in this way that the work itself—and indeed many of Zheng’s works—take on a life of their own and become a matter of exploration rather than extrapolation.
Here is a form of art that anyone can do.