Artist-in-Residence Weimin He’s woodcut prints of Radcliffe Observatory displayed at college
Seven appealing woodcut prints from Green Templeton’s Artist-in-Residence Weimin He have been displayed in the Kawasaki Room at College.
A reception hosted by Principal Denise Lievesley took place at College to unveil the stunning prints and celebrate the release of Weimin’s new book, Tower of the Winds, Works on Paper by Weimin He, which documents the development of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, through his drawings and printmaking.
He created the seven prints, entitled Tower of the Winds I-VII, between 2009 and 2012, as part of his work as Artist-in-Residence for the Oxford University Estates Services, where he was tasked with creating a visual record of the Observatory Quarter’s transformation.
The concept of the prints is inspired by Hokusai’s famous woodblock print series, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which used Mount Fuji as the focal point of each print. Technically, Weimin developed a graphic woodblock style derived from ancient Chinese seal carving and calligraphy, creating contrasting rectangles of black and white, but his language of woodcut is entirely individual and contemporary. In Weimin’s prints, he uses the Radcliffe Observatory’s famous Tower of the Winds as his focal point; a constant presence in the background during the various stages of the Observatory Quarter’s development, from demolition to reconstruction.
The Observatory Quarter was named for the 18th century Radcliffe Observatory, which stands at the heart of Green Templeton’s site and dominates the landscape around it.
Each print began as a soft pencil drawing before eventually being cut from birch plywood.
Speaking at the reception, Weimin said: “I thought Hokusai’s idea was really fascinating so I wanted the Tower to appear in every piece of woodcut print, starting from the demolition process.”
The transformation of the Observatory Quarter, a ten-acre site between Green Templeton College and Somerville College, began with the demolition of some existing buildings to make way for new structures including the Mathematical Institute and the Blavatnik School of Government. Before the demolition, the Tower was partially hidden and blocked by some 1950s buildings, but gradually it was exposed, unveiling its true glory. The Tower was previously used to observe the universe but, since 2009, it has been witness to the historic transformation of the Observatory Quarter site. As Weimin says, it is not just a symbol of the Green Templeton, but a symbol of the new development of the University of Oxford.
Weimin said: “I am really so familiar with the Tower now. This work is all from outside the Tower but last year, I was so fortunate to be given the opportunity to be Artist-in-Residence at Green Templeton, which means I can really observe the Tower from this side. The Tower really has been part of my life for so many years and it still brings me inspiration.”
The Radcliffe Observatory’s Tower was modelled on the original Tower of the Winds in Athens, built in 50BC. The octagonal tower features carvings of the Eight Winds by sculptor John Bacon, based on the carvings seen on the original Athens building.
Weimin created more than 1,000 images during his time as Artist-in-Residence at Oxford University Estates Services, of which 290 are featured in his new book, published by the University of Oxford.