Zhang Huan’s Ash Buddhas
Zhang Huan, born in 1965, started his career as a painter and then moved to performance art and then resorted back to painting. He is also a sculptor and photographer, but his main focus is on being a performance artist. Throughout his career, he has made extensive use of ash and even built a few sculptures with it. Zhang says that he considers ash to be symbolic as it represents the hopes and prayers of those who usually burn the incense. To him, the ash sculptures represent a collective blessing, memory and soul of the Chinese people. The ash is collected from various temples in Shanghai, a time-consuming process that involves many hands.
How the ash sculptures are made
When making such sculptures, the ash is compacted into the mold for a number of days, and then the aluminum sculpture is removed and reassembled facing the ash sculpture. Eventually, the ash sculpture will start trampling down after some time, while the aluminum sculpture remains intact.
Video: Interview with Zhang Huan
The meaning of the artwork
Zhang believes that each ash Buddha represents the prayers, thoughts, and hopes of mankind, which eventually collapse. This is the cycle of life and taking action when there should be no action taken, upsets nature, in a way.
Video: Construction time-lapse
Different versions of the Buddha
The Sydney Buddha
In 2015, Zhang created the Sydney Buddha, one headless metal statue, and another one made from over 20 tons of incense ash, crumbling gradually. It was named Sydney Buddha for the purpose of its presentation in Australia. Initially, it was known as Taiwan Buddha. The Sydney Buddha is a meditation on the briefness of life and the various cycles that facilitate the renewal and destruction of life. This piece is made using two parts: the main sculpture made of aluminum and incense-ash casting as the interior. These pieces are placed facing each other, and as time elapses, one of them depreciates.
The Berlin Buddha
The Berlin Buddha is another monumental ash sculpture of Buddha, made from 6 tons of ash from burned incense. This ash has been poured into an aluminum mold that stands at 4 meters tall.
Preparatory drawings of the Ash Buddha