Chinese artist creates dialogue between East and West
Illuminated by the sun of Apollo, two bronze statues of the world’s two wisest philosophers, Socrates and Confucius, stand together in Athens, the center of Greek culture, as if they were in the middle of a discussion.
“They are talking about the global pandemic, like how human beings can beat the virus crisis,” Wu Weishan, creator of the sculptures and curator of the National Art Museum of China, told the Global Times, joking that s ‘they had WeChat, the two wise men could have often discussed the future development of mankind.
As one of the important events of the opening ceremony of the Greece-China Year of Culture and Tourism in 2021, the bronze sculpture of Wu Confucius and Socrates: a meeting was unveiled at the Ancient Agora near the Acropolis in central Athens, Greece on September 17.
“I can see that they are dialoguing,” said Maria Lagogianni, director of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
In order to create a vivid image of Socrates, Wu said he used many resources, including important works by Socrates. To his surprise, he learned that Socrates was neither tall nor handsome.
“Maybe these characteristics correspond to the real Socrates, but they do not correspond to the Socrates in my mind. Therefore, I added my own understanding and used the concept of Chinese aesthetics of ‘beauty in ugliness “as a basis for learning from my predecessors,” Wu said.
Wu said that Socrates’ wisdom and steadfast personality reminded him of the stone pillars of the ancient Greek temple that stand between heaven and earth and underline the country’s deep philosophy. He therefore decided to represent Socrates by involving the image of the sacred pillar to express a powerful, energetic and talkative Socrates with the realistic aesthetic of ancient Greece.
Wu created sculptures of Confucius on several occasions, but he told the Global Times that he was never bored with them and that his inspiration never ran dry.
Compared to the realistic style used to portray Socrates, Wu used a more freehand style for Confucius. By adding an element of “wind,” Confucius’s robe makes it appear as if it is blowing in the breeze, almost as if Confucius has captured a cloud and has flown to Greece to be a guest. His palm-to-palm salute is a sign of his kindness and courtesy and the etiquette of the ancient eastern nation.
Historical records indicate that Confucius’ height was “9 feet 6 inches tall” by Chinese standards, which should have made him much taller than Socrates, but here he is standing shoulder to shoulder with Socrates.
“I made them the same height to show the equality of the two civilizations from East to West,” Wu said.
The two great philosophers, the first existentialists according to many researchers, tried to deal with the question of human happiness and their thinking marked the next generations of philosophers, sculpting a Eurasian perception of the question.
Although Wu made several hypothetical conversations between historical figures, including Dialogue Between Qi Baisi and Leonardo da Vinci in Italy and The Door of the Soul – The Dialogue Between Shevchenko and Du Fu in Ukraine. However, An Encounter was a special creation for him as it came about after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In January 2020, Wu flew to Greece to discuss the artwork, and the Greek expert team were very “confident about An Encounter’s plan” after seeing the success of Dialogue between Qi Baisi and Leonardo da Vinci.
“After I returned to China, the city of Wuhan was locked,” Wu recalls with a serious look on his face. He then began devoting himself to creation as the pandemic worsened, spending a total of a year and a half completing creation.
Although Wu was unable to attend the ceremony in person due to the pandemic, he recorded a speech in a video, in which he stressed that online modes can be an effective method for international cultural exchanges and communications in the future.
Shared future of humanity
The Greek government chose the Old Bazaar in the central area of Athens as the site for the completion of the works. This place is the cradle of Greek civilization and is an important place for the exchange of ideas in the city-states of ancient Greece, where the famous Socrates Square debate took place.
“I was very touched that Greece, with a history spanning almost 3,000 years, placed my work in the Acropolis, which continued to be the heart of Athens for millennia,” Wu said, speaking about the importance that Greece attaches to sculpture and its expectations towards China and Greece to deepen cultural exchanges.
“Morality and virtue are common elements [of the two countries’ philosophies]. These are also the values embodied by the two emblematic philosophers, Socrates and Confucius… who meet here, in the ancient Agora of Athens, for the first time ”, declared the Greek Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni during a event organized on the occasion of the Year of Greco-Chinese Culture. and Tourism in 2021.
The year 2022 will mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Greece, and other cultural events will take place in the two countries around this time, according to media reports.