ZHUANG Xiaowei Glass sculptor Extrodinaire

Zhuang Xiaowei is from the first generation of Chinese glass artists and is regarded as the father of China’s contemporary glass art movement.

Arriving back in Shanghai he soon discovered that glass art was not taught in China’s art schools, so in 2000 with the help from his old university in the UK he set-up a glass studio in Shanghai University with machinery he acquired from old glass factories in the UK.

From these humble beginnings Chinese contemporary glass art slowly emerged.

Chinese glass artists do not follow the western way of blowing glass, instead they kiln-cast glass sculptures, a much more complex process that takes considerably longer to produce a fine art piece.

This glass is so different from the centuries old tradition of producing Chinese glasswork, which was primarily functional, in the form of decorative vases and bowls.

The abstract forms Zhuang produces in the Shanghai glass studio are more akin to a Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth sculpture, but with Chinese characteristics.

Cast glass has a feminity that sculptures cast in bronze do not seem to have. This is in part due to glass being translucent and glass seems to speak of air whereas bronze speaks of mass.

An early piece by Zhuang is a block of cast glass with one side sculptured in the form of a female back. If you look carefully there is a certain sensuality emerging from this ice-like block and it is incredibly tactile. If you run your fingers down the glass you will feel the detail of the spine and muscles ending at the buttocks.

Later pieces by Zhuang appear more ethereal and poetic and his themes of balance and harmony are more in keeping with Chinese philosophy than western cultural forms.

By introducing coloured ink into the glass casting process, Zhuang is exploring more with the themes of colour and light in a lyrical manner.

Vanessa Lee Taub, Director of Galerie Vee in Hong Kong was the first to introduce Zhuang’s work to Hong Kong in 2005 and has since held a number of exhibitions of his work as well as other members of the Contemporary Chinese Glass Sculpture scene.

A museum in Germany has his work and he is also being reviewed for a British museum.