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Appreciating sculpture by playing with it
By Wang Jie

SCULPTURE is usually supposed to be appreciated by walking around it and viewing it from different angles.

But mechanical wooden sculpture by Peng Xiaojia, 56, is supposed to be held and played with.

"I don't know whether Peng's creations can be called sculpture," says noted art critic Shao Qi.

"Sculptures are to be viewed from more angles than canvas but that's not the way to appreciate these works."

Shao says the works should be held in their hands, unfolded and moved.

"They are to be played with rather than viewed," he says.

Peng's sculpture is evocative of elements of traditional Chinese furniture.

A gallery exhibition of these somewhat bewildering works, titled "Summer Thoughts," is underway.

According to Peng, the "real metaphor" of the sculpture is only revealed when visitors play with them.

They seem to be finely crafted parts of Chinese furniture, without apparent function.

Peng says he emphasizes the "extreme intricacy" of the sculptures to offset the public character of most sculpture.

"They become quite personal and private," he says, adding that he is especially interested in the style and elegance of items made during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

"Even today they appear so elegant and delicate through superb techniques, yet they are close to life."

Traditional craftsmanship has always been part of the "Chinese way of sculpture," he says.

China has never lacked sculpture but the sculptures recognized by the West are monumental public pieces, Peng says.

He calls his latest works "Chinese interpretation of sculpture."

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