11 x 12 x 16.5 cm
4.3 x 4.7 x 6.5 inches
During a walk through the Yuyuan garden in Shanghai, a marvellous garden constructed by a government officer for his parents along the border of the Huangpu River, the perforated, irregular rocks grabbed the attention of sculptor Nick Ervinck. There is a strange sense of contemplation, of wisdom, captured in these intricate and ancient shapes. Although born from the power of nature, these rocks seem to escape their natural origin.
These rocks are known as Gongshi or spirit stones in Chinese tradition. The irregularities in the rocks are believed to be an externalisation of qi energy, a vital, spiritual force that is part of all that exists. Through these rocks, and nature in general, scholars reflected on their own morals, virtues and beliefs. The balance and harmony between people and nature was highly valued in Chinese philosophy.
These spirit stones thus had a profound effect on the viewer, encouraging meditation and contemplation. And each time, the holes, paths and ridges reveal something different, reveal another perspective on the world that is encapsulated in the rocks, a spiritual dimension beyond the pure physical appearance.
Next to that, their aesthetic qualities were also strongly admired by the Chinese people throughout history. Mi Fu, a twelfth-century Chinese scholar, wrote a treatise on the aesthetics of the spirit stones. He distinguished four main aesthetic qualities: shou, an elegant and upright stature; zhou, a wrinkled and furrowed texture; lou or cracks that are like channels or paths through the rock; and tou, the holes in the rock that allow air and light to pass through.
Inspired by this ancient occidental tradition, Ervinck constructed a series of contemporary, digitalized rock sculptures. The newest digital techniques allow these complex structures to enter into reality itself. This creates a mutual fertilisation between the digital and the real. By scanning the borders of tradition and innovation through computational methods, Ervinck searches for new ways to revolutionize the art of sculpture.