Ma Desheng has been painting, drawing and sculpting stones since the 1970s. He sees stones as possessing souls, expressing himself under the guidance of the “vital breath” – the famous qi. This physical and sensory relationship promotes a universal hope – Harmony. All Ma Desheng’s thought is based on Taoist philosophy: humankind is not at the centre of the universe, but one element among many others. Human beings have no rights over nature and have a duty to respect it.
Ma Desheng’s work soon started to focus on the human body, which had initially been absent from it, or at the most had a marginal presence in his landscapes of cosmic dimensions. The body has continued to be a guiding principle in his experiments with Chinese ink and lithography. The body’s movements have succeeded the stability of landscapes. For him, stone is the means of making the best possible synthesis between movement and stability. He started out by painting on canvas, producing a whole series, “Stone Beings”. He then turned to using the material itself. His assemblages imitate the body, employing a material that comes from the ground. Deprived of his own body’s mobility, the artist sets out to examine all forms of equilibrium. Stones are piled up over and over again, playing on the paradox of their weight and fragility.
Ma Desheng’s monumental bronze sculptures are of depersonalised figures that transcend the human condition. They forge links between palpable elements (earth), on which humans stand, and intangible elements (sky), for which humans reach and of which they dream. For Ma Desheng, stone is a catalysing element for all beings imbued with energy, the record sheet of eternity.