Chinese culture is “an untapped resource” -- British graphic designer
This photo taken on Nov. 6, 2023, shows a LEGO toy set featuring the "Auspicious Chinese Dragon" image, which debuted at the sixth China International Import Expo in Shanghai, east China.(Xinhua/Zhang Keren)
BRUSSELS, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Phil Cleaver, a British graphic designer, won a prize in the 2024 Global Zodiac Design Competition organized by the Beijing Overseas Cultural Exchange Center for his work well incorporating ancient representations of the Chinese dragon.
To display his understanding of this year's Chinese zodiac animal, the Chinese dragon, also known as "loong" according to its pronunciation in Chinese, Cleaver combined different symbolic objects in his work: an antique Chinese dragon-shaped pipe placed across an open book, with the book resting against a backboard that is adorned with motifs from old dragon stamps.
"The loong itself is an antique pipe, beautiful in its detail and proportion, and it sits on a book that is a story of a dragon. The book is a very old symbol of knowledge ... the book reflects the knowledge and wisdom of the loong," the professor of the School of Art and Design at the Middlesex University in London told Xinhua in a written interview.
This picture shows British graphic designer Phil Cleaver's work Year of the Dragon for the 2024 Global Zodiac Design Competition organized by the Beijing Overseas Cultural Exchange Center. (Beijing Overseas Cultural Exchange Center/Handout via Xinhua)
Cleaver said China has invented the technology for making paper and the process of painting, therefore he combined these "old items which carry layers of meaning" to make his design for the Year of the Dragon.
This is his second time taking part in this contest. Last year, for the contest marking the Year of the Rabbit, he presented a print entitled Rabbit Moon, which he said was inspired by an ancient Chinese myth that a jade rabbit lives on the moon.
"China has the oldest and amazingly deep sophisticated culture, and this fascinates me visually," said Cleaver, who is also a fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers.
Noting that his Chinese zodiac animal is the monkey, the graphic designer, said that the characteristics of a monkey describe him very well and called himself "a fire monkey."
This picture shows British graphic designer Phil Cleaver's work Rabbit Moon for the 2023 Global Zodiac Design Competition organized by the Beijing Overseas Cultural Exchange Center. (Beijing Overseas Cultural Exchange Center/Handout via Xinhua)
As a Chinese cuisine lover, he said he goes to China two or three times a year. "I am fascinated with old Chinese culture, it is like a bottomless pit of visual treats," he said.
Explaining what inspired him to create the works for the Global Zodiac Design Competition in 2023 and 2024, he said, "I feel (Chinese culture) is an untapped resource visually," adding that both his works pay tribute to the past and inspire the future.
Referring to a comparison between the Western and Chinese dragons, Cleaver said the two types of dragons share some similarities in how they are depicted, but Chinese culture attributes much better qualities to the dragons than the concept of a beast prevailing in Western culture.
The Global Zodiac Design Competition is a signature cultural event co-sponsored by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism and the Central Academy of Fine Arts.
Besides exhibitions in Chinese cities, the works of this year's event themed on the Chinese dragon will also be on display at the Binche International Carnival and Mask Museum in Belgium, and Helsinki Airport in Finland until the end of February.