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Artist Wang Keping at the Rodin Museum, Paris

Artist Wang Keping working on his wood sculptures at Musee Rodin, Paris

It’s not every day that one gets to be privy to observing a sculptor at work, but until June 5, 202, renowned Beijing-born artist Wang Keping will be putting his touches on four monumental sculptures in an enchanting forested area just off the gardens of the magnificent Musée Rodin. For much of his life in Mao’s China where art was strictly controlled. Keping had no idea that sculptures even existed as an art form, only paintings. His discovery of Rodin’s sculptures with their sensual forms, in particular of the female body, was life-changing. As the first artist ever to be welcomed by the museum to use its grounds as his personal open-air atelier, Keping, who works exclusively in wood, could not be in a better setting.

The Wood Whisperer

On a recent visit I found Keping to be relaxed and accessible. Watching the artist at work was a delight in itself. He seemed to be sanding down an enormous off-white form that at first glance reminded me of an extracted molar. I was told that the dark cocoa-brown piece nearby used to be the same colour, but had been transformed with a blow torch. As Keping worked away, visitors ambled among masterpieces-in-development in a sun-dappled setting. Sculptures by Rodin appeared to gaze over the artist at work- and surely approvingly. Personally, I loved the entire experience, and plan to return.

Details: Wood sculptor Wang Keping will take over the sculpture garden at Musée Rodin which has been transformed into an open-air workshop. He will work on four monumental sculptures in front of visitors, using whole tree trunks as his source material. Wood, the artist’s favourite material, is at the heart of his work. Wang Keping searches the countryside and sawmills for trunks of different essences. Once debarked, the block suggests the shapes that the sculpture will take. With his chainsaw, and then with increasingly fine tools, the artist makes the wood speak. He sands and re-sands it, until the right shape emerges and reveals the spirit that the material imposes: rounded, soft, sensual female forms, smooth as skin.

One of the sculptures will be exhibited in the museum once completed. The artist will be present for four afternoons each week to work on his sculptures. Find out more at: musee-rodin.fr

Barbara Pasquet James is a U.S. lifestyle editor, speaker, and urban explorer who writes about food fashion and culture, from Paris. She is known for helping launch, write and edit USA Today’s City Guide To Paris and can be contacted via her photo blog FocusOnParis.com

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