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A Sculpture Ties China and the UK
Haoxuezi Tian, Yinan Li
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A Sculpture Ties China and the UK

The Winter Olympics Park, located in the western district of Beijing's Shijingshan Park, welcomed a special group of guests in January. Fifteen sculptures from international sculptors were placed in the gallery, embellishing the snow season with a variety of vivid colors. Among them, "Bliss" by sculptor Isabel H. Langtry, principal of Hampstead School of Art (HSoA) in London, caught people’s attention.

Isabel H. Langtry and her sculpture “Bliss”.

“British-style” family happiness stands out among thousands of artworks

Langtry is the only British sculptor among all of the talented international artists to be selected, who have the opportunity to display their works in the Beijing Winter Olympics Park. Her sculpture “Bliss” consists of two butterfly wings of made of pink steel plates, and reaches almost 5 meters tall. The center of the sculpture features a fulcrum that resembles a musical note, and at the back of the two intersecting steel plates features an additional fulcrum.

The main material used to make “Bliss” is recyclable and environmentally friendly steel. The transportation of this giant sculpture is also eco-friendly. Blueprints of the sculpture and a table-top-sized prototype were shipped to Beijing, where they were scaled up to nearly 5 meters in height by Chinese-made steel workers and fabricators.

Langtry explained, “You can think of it as butterfly wings, a plant, anything from nature, because my inspiration comes from the great nature.” She emphasized, the choice of pink derives from Chinese garden culture. Pink represents full bloom and also contains strong feminine qualities. Being a big fan of Chinese garden art, she mentioned reading about Chinese people taking very good care of the old and special trees during the winter. People knit coverings for the trees to keep them safe and warm and to help them to survive. “I feel deeply moved by how close Chinese culture relates to nature.”

Langtry said that this sculpture involves nature, and can bring people together. Beijing is the only city in the world to hold both the summer and winter Olympics. The sculpture shares the same meaning as the Olympics, which unites human beings through sport. Art and sports can both encourage communication between people, transcending race and national borders, it presents a pure and powerful spirit to the world.  

Langtry reveals that the selection of artworks for the Winter Olympics are open to the world. As far as she knows, more than 1200 artists have participated. According to the person in charge of Shijingshan District, there are a total of 1611 proposals submitted from more than 50 countries and regions. Langtry said that the moment she saw the solicitation, she was deeply attracted by the concepts of community and solidarity. Knowing that Bliss was translated as “the joy of family”, Langtry said the translation was “beautiful”, “it’s a great thrill to me that it got translated into exactly what I wanted to say.”

Isabel Langtry’s Oxygen Series.

Landscape garden fan becomes attached to Chinese arts

Langtry expressed that it was a pleasure to work with Chinese sculptors. In 2019, she met Liu Yang, a famous Chinese architect and sculptor in an international sculptor cooperation project called the International Sculpture in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. She revealed that as one of the greatest sculptors, Liu Yang has 20 sculptures in Europe. Langtry was very excited to learn that both of their works were selected for the Winter Olympics. Since that encounter with Liu Yang, she has developed a more substantial interest in cultures by cooperating with sculptors from all over the world, especially Chinese sculpltors.

Langtry was fascinated by water stones and sculptures in Chinese gardens. She loves the reflection of sculptures in water, just as “bliss” was placed on a mirror in her London studio. The reflection in the mirror simulates the reflections that would appear if the sculpture were placed in water. Langtry said, “I hope that one day my sculptures can appear in other cities in China, even better if they are in the water!”

She mentioned that, as with the concept of the International Sculpture Symposium put forward by Austrian sculptor Karl Prantl in 1959, the exchange of different cultures embodies sharing, community, and other ways of using art to unite people. She said that the fact that her sculptures were finally selected for the 15 public artworks exhibited in the Winter Olympic Park made her feel more deeply connected with the China and Beijing Winter Olympics. Although it was a pity that she could not come to Beijing in person, she added “I will definitely watch the broadcast of the Beijing Winter Olympics on TV.”

Isabel Langtry pictured with one of her Oxygen series works.

Art liberates the soul, even for the homeless people

The Hampstead School of Art was established in 1946 by Henry Moore and a group of artists at the end of World War II. The school’s founders worked to relieve people’s stress from the torture and trauma of war through artistic concepts such as painting and sculpture. Establishing the idea of ​​“Healing Hearts with Creation and Unleashing Spirituality with Art,” HSoA has grown into a school which has over a thousand students a week and offers a full-time undergraduate education and advanced studies. On weekends, there are also art workshops for teenagers.

Langtry enjoys her position as the principal of Hampstead School of Art. For Langtry, creativity is everywhere, and whenever someone says to her, “Isabel, I don't know how to be creative.” She always replies, “Everyone has a creative idea which just needs bringing out in other directions, it’s very exciting to be in a position like mine, where you can inspire people to be creative; you can see the benefits and developing work.”

HSoA offers several weekend courses, ranging from silk painting, pottery and sculpture classes. Langtry revealed that she also subsidizes homeless people to study for free on some courses, “no one in the class knows that someone is homeless,” she said, believing that everyone has a talent for art; and art can also be the salvation of every person.


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