When the Chinese Ministry of Culture asked all interested artists to come to the aid of their country and submit ideas for the perfect ox to symbolize the coming Year of the Ox, famed ceramic animal artist, 79-year-old Zhou Guozhen, did his duty. Among the many stereotypical Wall Street bulls the ministry received, one shone brightly; it represented the iconic St Water Buffalo worshipped and carved on cave walls as far back as 8,000 years ago.
In the words of Chen Haibo, head of art appraisal of the cultural market development center of the Ministry of Culture in Shanghai:
"We were almost desperate for a memorable ox for 2009. Zhou’s immediately beat all the other statues on the table. Zhou really deserves the title, 'No. 1 animal sculptor’.”
Zhou is said to have a deep understanding of animals. His simple St Water Buffalo is around 40 centimeters long, with textured hide. In his own words:
“This image is inspired by the huge water buffalo/bison of the New Stone Age about 8,000 years ago. It used to be an idol for early man in what became China; a beast of awesome power. Sometimes the inner power does not come from size. Animals are our friends. Although they don't speak, all the roles in our own complicated society can be mirrored in the animal world.”
Zhou frequents zoos in Beijing and Shanghai to observe the movements, habits and emotions of animals. He once stayed at the Shanghai Zoo for eight months and his absorption into subject matter reveals itself in his unique creations. Although his leopards are most famous, Zhou’ s horses, bears, chickens, crocodiles, tigers, lions and owl are remarkable as well.
Now this limited edition of 999 “St Water Buffalo” sculptures (an odd choice of numbers, don’t you think?) is available at an exhibition at the Weicheng Art Gallery. Each sculpture is handmade by this highly respected artist and can be purchased for a mere 22,800 yuan ($3,338 US dollars)!
Happy Year of the Ox to all.