Transforming Dull Metals into Glittering Artworks

The Guos’ art of relief on iron boards

By Soyim


Evening Glow in Shangri-La by Guo HailongSoyim

Relief on iron boards

Relief on iron boards is a craftsmanship of forging relief patterns by hands on the dull medium of iron boards. It integrates innovation and inheritance of traditional Chinese metalwork techniques, with reference to and selective use of western painting and sculpting skills. The pieces of works created in this way by the artisan Guo Hailong, featuring natural, bold and unadorned forms together with life-like patterns, are quite distinctive and unique, each of which is different from another and cannot be duplicated.

Jingzhe by Guo HailongSoyim

Guo Hailong grew up with painting and clay sculpting as an integral part of his daily life since he fell in love with fine arts in his childhood. His artistic potential was fully tapped and developed after he got enlisted in the army in 1981 and his talents were acknowledged by his superiors. It is fair to say that getting enlisted in the army didn’t disturb his pursuit of fine arts, rather, it has brought Guo nearer to his dream.

Jingzhe, March 5th or 6th of Chinese lunar calender, is one the 24 days to mark the divisions of a year. This artwork is based on a boy the artisan saw during his field tour in the Taihang Mountains around the time of Jingzhe. Holding tight a pencil and carrying a small bag of books, the boy’s eyes are filled with curiosity and desire to explore. By setting the boy in the background of the Taihang Mountains, the artisan is saying that this boy is where the hope to change the mountainous region lies. The world in the eyes of different people is varied due to their various experiences and temperaments. The artisan wonders what the world looks like in the eyes of the boy.

Me and My Little Friend by Guo HailongSoyim

Me and My Little Friend. This work unveils the happy childhood of a village girl by illustrating a scene of the girl playing happily with her little dog with a stack of firewood as the background. While the black-and-white visual effect of relief on iron boards is supposed to be solemn, this piece exudes a sense of liveliness thanks to the ingenious design of the artisan.

A Tibetan Child by Guo HailongSoyim

Guo Hailong became a fitter after finishing his service in the army. Having learnt accidentally the technique of welding applique sculptures from a coworker, Guo has been so captivated by the craftsmanship that he resigned his job in 2001 and has been specializing in relief on iron boards and colorful relief on copper.

Snow Lotus of Mount Tianshan by Guo HailongSoyim

Colorful relief on copper is a handicraft of coloring the surface of ready-made copper relief through a procedure of firing. The prominent feature of this craft lies in the rich yet unduplicatable colors, similar to the glazes on porcelains after being baked in kiln.

Peony Blossoms by Guo HailongSoyim

Peony Blossoms and Mangosteen by Guo HailongSoyim

Peony Blossoms and Mangosteen. This piece of artwork is a gift the artisan gave to his only daughter who was getting married when this item was being created. Two birds standing on the rock, a symbol of the artisan and his wife, are reluctantly bidding farewell to a pair of smaller birds, signifying the artisan’s daughter and her fiancée. The birds and peony blossoms in this work have been endowed with the artisan’s wishes for his daughter to fly high and live a happy life ever after, while the rock the two elderly birds standing on implying that the parents will always be there for the daughter.

Pray by Guo HailongSoyim

Pray. The piece of artwork is based on the pious Tibetan prayer the artisan ran across during his field trip to Tibet. These prayers would spend several months or even a year walking in no matter what weather to the sacred land in their heart, kowtowing once every step. Their piety has deeply touched the artisan, whose inspiration for this piece can be appositely explained by what one writer has said about inspiration: Creation is a process of searching, namely, searching for the intrinsic reality of a piece of work. The creator will feel the inspiration when he/she finds the intrinsic law.

Home by Guo HailongSoyim

Artwork "Home".

Bank of Qinghai Lake by Guo HailongSoyim

Tibetan people and their daily life often appear in Guo Hailong's artworks.

Evening Glow in Shangri-La by Guo HailongSoyim

Evening Glow in Shangri-La. Based on an ingenious combination of an elderly Tibetan woman and the setting sun, the artisan illustrated a typical scene of west China via the medium of relief on iron boards. An elderly Tibetan woman is sitting in a chair with a string of prayer beads in hand, enjoying the warm evening glow. On a face full of deep winkles that old age has brought her, the eyes are looking into the distance. Behind the chair she is sitting there is nothing but two lines of wood fence. The simple but broad background, together with the calm yet profound look of the old lady, reveals an atmosphere of in-depth meanings.

Warmth in Winter by Guo HailongSoyim

Spring by Guo HailongSoyim

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