Dynasties and nations are remembered as much for their grand feats in art as anything else. Ancient Asian art is imbued with a sense of reverence for the divine—a quality that comes from the artist themselves, says Professor Zhang Kunlun.
“If an artist has pure thoughts they can create a good piece and it has a good impact on people,” Zhang said. Today, he says, art has lost its way. Zhang is one of contemporary China’s most accomplished sculptors. He has served as director of the Sculpture Institute of the Shandong Art Institute of China and specializes in oil painting and Chinese painting, as well as sculpture.
His vision is to rekindle the purity that allowed artists of the past to flourish in their craftsmanship.
“Artworks have a very big influence on humankind, on people,” Zhang said. Art is the mirror of a society, while morality is the compass by which it takes direction, he said. “Human morality can also influence art creation.”
“Art has to have its own law and balance, the right proportion, and good structure of the human body—and it must be beautiful,” he said. True art must have a good concept first and foremost. Exceptional technique follows, and good composition completes the fundamental requirements, Zhang says.
Many of the concepts chosen for ancient artworks were based on scenes of Gods and Buddhas, while the artists’ reverence for their deity was the motivation for perfection.
Works of art emanate the meaning behind them, says Zhang. “People don’t believe bad things have bad results, and good things have good results anymore,” he said. “It’s the same with art. People don’t believe Gods and Buddhas exist, so they do anything they want.”
Half a century ago, Michelangelo spent his lifetime creating masterpieces devoted to his belief in God. Every stroke seems to carry his respect and yearning for heaven. Every stroke emphasized a holy and pure mind and a renouncement of worldly attachments.
Monks used to spend their lives creating artworks that connected them to the divine, showing full devotion toward the heavenly scenes they created. Zhang does the same through Falun Gong, an ancient Buddhist practice that gives him the wisdom to revive the ways of the ancients within the modern world.
“Human society has its own standards, but the universe has its own standards,” he said. “I want to help preserve and move forward the best part of human civilization.”
Zhang Kunlun is the recipient of many awards, and has participated in many exhibits in China and around the world.
He or his works appear in Who’s Who in the World, The Encyclopedia of Outstanding Chinese, and Collected Works of the World’s Sculpture, among other publications.