On Sculpture

Because they are three-dimensional, sculptures require a certain place and space. As a result, they have to fight for their lasting existence. Sculptures are, therefore, the best means for artists to express a personal or a collective strength of existence.

“Concept of an Exhibition — or a Conceptual Exhibition”, Lion Art, 1985

Busts ultimately take form and crystalize after the gradual process of sculpting. All points and surfaces reach an immobile state. In Gimmond’s studio, I began to under-stand works like this. It was also the first time I regarded Chinese Buddhist sculp-tures from an artistic perspective. I experienced an epiphany and understood what sculptures signify. I saw the apex of the sculptural process. Thsi visit to Gimmond’s studio was an inspiration and had a great impact on me. I realized the ultimate pur-suits of philosophy were one and the same with those of sculptures. I was ready to learn sculpting.

“Conversation with Xiong Bingming”, Mei Shu Yan Jo, vol. 94, 1992

On Art

Originally, I studied philosophy. Philosophy is about the pursuit of knowledge and the exploration of logic. Ultimately, it is about the pursuit of the meaning of existence. If one feels one can realize this goal better in art, it is not impossible to turn from phi-losophy to art.

I don’t think conceptual art is something completely new. In China, the source of conceptual art can be traced back to Zhuangzi. While conceptual art is indeed a type of [new] art, its qualities were already hidden in [traditional] art. In exploring the re-lationship between art and text, Chinese paintings and calligraphy had this element of conceptual art since a long time ago.

“After Conceptual Exhibition”, Lion Art, vol. 197

On Calligraphy

Calligraphy is at the core of the core of Chinese culture.

“Calligraphy and Chinese Culture”, The Twenty First Century Review vol. 31, 1995

Even though writing is merely ink marks on white paper, it embodies all the colors, all the forms, all the inner fire and peace. Calligraphy is the portrait of our souls.

“Calligraphy and People”, Dang Dai, vol. 120, 1997

The sculptor walked in,
took out a matchbox out from his pocket,
then took out a bronze object from the matchbox.
I bent down to see, and I saw a gigantic storm.

“Concept of an Exhibition — or a Conceptual Exhibition”, Lion Art, 1985

On Himself

Day by day, am I becoming more Chinese
Or more and more not Chinese?

“Concept of an Exhibition — or a Conceptual Exhibition”, Lion Art, 1985

My work has never been singular. In the 1960s, the painter Wallace Ting mocked, “Your work is too mixed. You sculpt, paint, do calligraphy, write essays, teach. How do you feed and nourish four or five chicken with only a handful of rice?” He had a point. But among the four or five chicken, which do I keep, which do I discard? Find-ing it difficult to decide, I had no choice but to keep all of them. They all became very thin, emaciated like the cranes I make today with only a few iron sticks.

I am like a seed of Chinese culture that has been planted in Western soil. Forming roots and shoots, I do not know what buds will blossom — red ones, purple ones, gray ones? What kind of fruits will there be — sweet ones, tart ones, bitter like raw per-simmons? I do not know. This is a trial in which you experiment with your own life. To date, what are the results? At the autumn of my life, I have no choice but to pre-sent my wretched fruits to my friends. I am neither proud or ashamed. These are the results of my experiments.

I wish to quote Zhuangzi: “The Tao is lost when right and wrong are expressed in definite terms. When the Tao is lost, preferences emerge. Are the results because success precedes loss or because loss causes success?” The meaning of life is beyond failure and success.

“Xiong Bingming’s Statement”, Wen Yi Yien Jo, vol. 1, 2000

On Teaching Chinese

Teaching the Chinese language and Chinese calligraphy is quite similar in a foreign country. For both, you have to convey the qualities and spirit of Chinese culture. I don’t want my students to simply learn common phrases such as “How are you?” Nonetheless, Chinese culture can be embeded in the most simple sentences. I be-come like a scout in mountain climbing. As I lead the way step by step, I also high-light the panorama of the mountain range. I want them to see that their destination is a sunny, snowy peak. By covering the two extremes, Westerners can begin to un-derstand the spirit of Chinese culture.

“Xiong Bingming on Calligraphy and Chinese”, Guo Wen Tien Di, vol. 6

Perhaps it is ridiculous to teach beginning Chinese in a foreign college. It is like teaching adults in a kindergarten class. However, through teaching simple phrases like “This is a blackboard” or “This is chalk”, I discovered the poetry in language and the mystery of my mother tongue. As a result, I wrote 20-30 poems using the most simple Chinese phrases, which I compiled and published “Teaching Chinese”.

“Xiong Bingming’s Statement”, Wen Yi Yien Jo, vol. 1, 2000