The story appears on

Page B2

November 2, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Art and Culture

Chinese stonecutters aid famous Danish sculptor

ONE of Denmark's most important contemporary artists, sculptor Claus Norheim Oerntoft, relies on skilled Chinese stonecutters to do the rough cut in solid granite.

Oerntoft's latest assignment is for the Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, who has asked him to create three large granite sculptures for the castle garden in Marselisborg. He decided on three lions, based on the Danish royal coat of arms.

The sculptures are scale models but in a few months the full-scaled models will be sent to China, where the initial work will be done in solid granite.

The work is done in Xiamen in southern China's coastal Fujian Province.

His sculptures are as dramatic as the place he lives in, far up in northern Jutland, about as far as one can go in Denmark. He spoke enthusiastically about his work and his cooperation with Chinese stone masters.

"I don't have the same strength as I had when I was young. Twenty years of working with carving granite have taken their toll on my arms, so I am no longer able to perform the rough part of shaping the stone," says Oerntoft, who is around 50. "This I get done with the help of skilled stonecutters in China."

During the course of his work, the artist has traveled to China to make sure the work is progressing according to his wishes and says he is delighted to be working with Chinese craftsmen.

"Here in Western Europe we have very few stonemasons left in the traditional sense. In China, on the contrary, I can contract with a crafts master one day and the next morning work is in progress. And I can be sure the job gets done conscientiously and professionally," Oerntoft says.

Rough cut

When the rough-cut sculptures are sent back from craft master Kang from Xiamen, Oerntoft himself completes the work in detail. The process may take a couple of years.

Inspiration often comes from nature and inhabitants of the animals world.

It all starts when he gets a job, perhaps from a city or company - in this case the Danish royal court - seeking a sculpture for a particular location.

He visits the location and studies it.

"Then I go and think for months before I start making some sketches, which bring me closer to the image in my mind," says the Danish sculptor.

For his current royal commission, he takes inspiration from the seven lions on the Danish coat of arms.

When the drawings complete, Oerntoft makes a model in way on a very small scale, then a plaster figure in scale, 1:5, then larger in scale, 1:3. He then casts an iron skeleton for a model scaled 1:1 in plaster.

Based on this full-scale model, he creates a mold for a fiberglass statue, the lighter weight making transport to Xiamen easier.

Choosing stone

Then he chooses the stone, often granite from Denmark, Sweden or China. In this case, he hasn't decided which granite he will use for the three lions, but said it will probably come from Denmark or China.

"The long journey isn't a problem, even if I chose a stone that does not come from China. But it's a little more expensive if a stone is to sail from Denmark to China and back again," he says.

Typically a block of granite weighs 8-10 tons. But it is shipped in containers and the fiberglass model is sent by air.

High standards

Oerntoft doesn't choose Chinese craftsmen because the cost is much lower than it would be in countries like Sweden - he deliberately chose China because of the high quality of work. Economics is a minor issue, he says.

"The main thing is that I can trust the work will be done the way I imagine it. As an artist I have high demands for quality, and if they are not met, then I cannot in good conscience present the piece to the client," he says.

"Although others might not immediately see any minor errors, the work will still influence the subconscious of the viewer. I cannot lie with knowing that it isn't perfect."

The darkness closes in slowly over the farm and courtyard where Oerntoft lives with his wife Bente and their youngest daughter Sigrid. He works in natural light, and before it gets completely dark, he corrects a detail with his hammer and chisel.

The details make the difference, but without Chinese stonemasons, the work could not be accomplished.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend