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Former vice-premier's art exhibition opens in UK

By Zhang Chunyan in London ( Updated: 2012-11-01 13:52

An art exhibition featuring seal-cutting and calligraphy by former vice-premier Li Lanqing opened on Thursday at the British Museum.

Titled "Contemporary Chinese Seals by Li Lanqing", the exhibition presents 109 exceptional seals and two brush-written calligraphy pieces chosen from more than 800 works made by Li in recent years.

Li, a former politician, is also a scholar and artist. After retiring in 2003, Li has been keen to return the traditional practices of seal carving and calligraphy to their previous popularity.

"Li is committed to promoting traditional Chinese arts," Fan Di'an, director of the National Art Museum of China, which also jointly organized the exhibition, said at a news conference.

The art of seal-cutting, dates back more than 3,000 years to the Shang Dynasty (16th century-11th century BC) and is listed along with calligraphy, painting and poetry as one of the four essential skills required of an ancient scholar.

"Li's seals are both traditional and innovative, shedding new light on the vitality of seal-cutting," Fan added.

Fan said Li made a number of innovations in the concept of seal-cutting, in the range of content and in the style of writing employed.

Li has specially created a seal that reads in Chinese, "The British Museum" and 12 seals for the exhibition that reflect his admiration for British culture and Sino-UK cooperation, Fan revealed.

These special seals bear the names translated into Chinese of famous people in the UK such as William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Charlie Chaplin.

The exhibition is divided into four themes: Chinese Seals as Art, Admiration for World Culture, Contemporary China and Celebrating Life.

Jan Stuart, keeper of the Department of Asia at the British Museum, said, the exhibition is presented for the first time in a gallery that also showcases some of the British Museum's world-famous collection of Chinese art.

It may help people in the West to focus on Chinese seal-cutting, a part of Chinese ink painting and calligraphy, Stuart added.

She said the exhibition will "give people in the West a chance to see" some special things that Li has done for contemporary Chinese arts.

The British Museum is the most visited attraction in the UK receiving six million visitors a year. The exhibition will end on Jan 15.

Li has had solo exhibits of his seal-cutting and calligraphy work in several overseas countries and regions including Singapore, Russia and France, according to Wang Yingfan, former vice-minister of Foreign Affairs.

Seals have served as commanding emblems of identity and authority in China for thousands of years.

They are artistically engraved with Chinese characters or sometimes pictures and used by pressing them into an oily red paste and then stamping them on documents or artworks to leave their mark.

Fan also said there are challenges for seal-cutting, for example, how to reflect today's demand and how to turn the minor art into a relatively popular genre the general public can enjoy and practice.

Li's seal-cutting is a answer to the challenges, Fan said.

A book in English, named "Works of Art: By Li Lanqing, Chinese Seals and Calligraphy", launched on Wednesday in London.

The book, containing pictures and information about all of the exhibits, serves as an important record of the exhibition.

Andrea Rose, director of visual arts at the British Council, the UK's cultural relations body, said, the book and exhibition will introduce young people in Britain to more about China and Chinese culture.

Besides the exhibition and book, a concert and some talks, seminars and forums on Chinese seal-cutting, education and economy will be held in the UK to attract more British people and promote Sino-UK exchanges.


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