Zhou Ning (b. 1969) is a master of relief wood sculpture and one of China’s best kept secrets. In the quiet of the Shinqiao village mountains of Shangdong province away from the buzz of the contemporary art world, he chisels his creations for the world to see, filling them with profound meaning.
From a young age Zhou Ning was fascinated with Buddhist philosophies and driven by the desire to find a true meaning to life.
Graduate of Shandong Art College (1994), Zhou Ning started his career as an art teacher for children with disabilities in the Shandong province. Along with a fellow artist Zhen Yan, he went on to co-found ‘True Words Studio’ in 1997, a rehabilitation centre for children with special needs. The centre has doubled as his studio, which Zhou Ning credits with the discovery of his artistic path to carving and relief sculpting.
It was in 1997 that Zhou Ning’ s works received the recognition of the broader art world.
Zhou Ning and his students were widely exhibited as part of True Words Studio in China as well as Denmark and the United States.
But it wasn’t until he retreated back into the mountains of unresolved spiritual challenges that he was able to get to the soul of the wood by offering his heart to it, patiently chiselling it to shape inner peace. Zhou Ning’s seclusion led to an incredible comeback. His solo exhibitions in 2015, 2016, and 2017 were a vivid manifestation of the spiritual transcendence in his art works.
‘For over twenty years I learnt from ancient wisdom, connected with tradition and nature, and stayed attuned to the world. I tried hard to make inner peace an integral part of my creations. I know now the carving is the surface, but the essence is in enlightening your heart.’
Zhou Ning’s works are held in the collections of the National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China; Shenzhen Art Museum, Shenzen, China; and Phillips Art Museum, Pennsylvania, US.