Isabel H Langtry: My joy at getting Olympic call-up

HSoA sculptor sees her work Bliss added to Beijing park

Monday, 31st January — By Isabel H Langtry

pics2022jan27 Image 2022-01-27 at 08.13.01

In her own words, Isabel H Langtry explains how she has played a special part in the winter games.

I NEVER expected to be representing my country in the Olympics, though I was quite good at long jump when I was a schoolgirl.

It is of course as a sculptor that I have been selected and as the only UK sculptor at the Beijing Winter Olympics I am very thrilled.

My sculpture Bliss has been installed in the Olympic Sculpture Park amongst a group of 12 made by a selected group of International Monumental Sculptors.

An exhibition of our maquettes is also on public display in Beijing.

I am delighted that my contemporary and colleague Chinese sculptor Liu Yang, with whom I have previously worked in Riyadh, has also been selected.

Liu has more than 20 public sculptures in Europe alone and his sculpture called Snow Baby is a wonderful engaging artwork.

Liu is a multi-talented artist working across diverse media and concepts.

Bringing people together around sculpture is always a wonderful thing to do. Bliss is a joyful sculpture, and translates into Chinese as “Happiness of Family”.

The colour pink I chose to represent the cherry blossoms which in Chinese culture is associated with female power and as a symbol of life, brings with it a surge of optimism.

Constructed in 8mm mild steel and designed so as to emerge from the earth, its new fresh growth a sign of optimism which looks to the future; you can feel the possibilities and tension as the sculpture seems to launch itself into the air extending its physicality simulating movement in its open structure.

It’s sculptural language invites inquisitiveness from all angles. You may want to touch it, feel its shapes and hide in its petals, casting shadows from its great height of 7m reflecting the ambitions of all athletes and resonating the theme of “Together for a Shared Future”.

Sculpture-making is in itself a performative concern, an act of engagement, a poetry of material which expresses emotion, its forms dancing through changes of volume and transitions of forms through junctions and apertures.

My work is neither entirely representational nor abstract, but something in between.

I want you the viewers to bring your own associations to the artwork.

I have long loved Chinese culture, the ceramics, silks, architecture.

My sculpture is also reminiscent of the Chinese tradition of Penjing – shaping trees, developed in the wonderful gardens of remarkable Chinese innovation.

A Chinese film crew has already visited my studio where I have a maquette of the sculpture on display and Chinese newspapers have published articles about my work.

When we are interested in each other’s cultures magic happens – we all become people of the same world, sharing ideas expressing our feelings. Art is brilliant at crossing boundaries and making connections.

It is significant that Beijing is the only city to host both Summer and Winter Olympics, and the opening ceremony will be very exciting. I am really looking forward to watching it on TV and perhaps even seeing a glimpse of my sculpture Bliss.

I look forward to visiting in due course as our world begins its re-settlement into a near post-Covid normality.

The Winter Olympics is just what we need to give us a boost of sheer joy, new excitement in life and a new possibility of travelling to Beijing in the near future to visit the sculpture park and the great city itself, and I am delighted to have provided pure Bliss.

Isabel H Langtry is a sculptor and the principal of Hampstead School of Art

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