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Published with the kind permission of Weimin He, ROQ art project and Oxford University Estates Services

Oxford’s Most Beautiful Building Site

It's said a "picture is worth a thousand words", and in the case of Oxford-based artist Dr Weimin He, this is certainly true
Published with the kind permission of Weimin He, ROQ art project and Oxford University Estates Services

"Extraordinarily vivid, characterful drawings"

Until recently, Dr Weimin was artist-in-residence of Oxford University's Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ), recording in bold woodblock prints and paintings the redevelopment of a site that borders both Woodstock Road and Walton Street. In all, he has produced close to 350 sketches and two long friezes recording the evolution of the ROQ, both in terms of its physical construction and the faces of those who constructed it (and are continuing to do so).

These images, displayed on the hoardings that surround this construction project, have turned what many would have been viewed as an eyesore into surely Britain's most beautiful building site. And make no mistake, Weimin is an accomplished artist: his work has been displayed at the British Museum, the China National Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum in New York and even had his work presented to the Queen.

Weimin's work for this very Oxford project has focused on three main themes.

Published with the kind permission of Weimin He, ROQ art project and Oxford University Estates Services


"I've produced a series of bold woodblock prints inspired by the Tower of the Winds - an alternative name given to the Radcliffe Observatory," he explains, "and I've also concentrated on capturing how the stunning scenery works alongside the transformation of the site, together with my third focus of putting together a portrait collection of the people working on the project, as I want to put a face to the skills and talents that have enabled the remarkable evolvement of the ROQ".

Mind you, Dr Weimin is no stranger to either Oxford or construction sites, having also worked on recording a similar project at the Ashmolean Museum in 2008. His extraordinarily vivid, characterful drawings are created with ink and brush on xuan paper or Chinese album leaves. These album leaves are a traditional format of Chinese painting, going back as far as the Tang dynasty (618–907). Single leaves are collected into an album which can be viewed as a book, but also opened to be up to 12 meters long. He says his ambition is to “let my work have a life of its own" and as you can see from his work, he has certainly surpassed that goal.

Born in 1964 in Mudanjiang of the Heilongjiang province in China, Weimin began practicing art at an early age, studying drawing and painting when he was teenager; today his work spans a variety of techniques and media, including printmaking, ink painting, oil painting and seal cutting (a traditional form of Chinese art that refers to cutting a pattern into the bottom face of the seal (the active surface, used for stamping), rather than the sides or top. But like all great art, you don't need to understand its technical prowess in order to be moved or touched by its beauty, and for those whose homes and work places border Walton Street and Woodstock Road, what a treat that has surely proved.


- Jeremy Smith


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