National Institute for Zorig Chusum starts modern sculpture course, led by JICA volunteer

The National Institute for Zorig Chusum in Thimphu is now offering a course on modern sculpture, breaking away from the usual focus on Jimzo. Although Jimzo, which primarily involves making religious statues is taught at the institute, this new course is all about creating sculptures that represent everyday things or express beauty in creative, abstract ways. A Japan International Cooperation Agency or JICA volunteer has been teaching the course at the institute.

Hiroyuki Suzuki, who has been sculpting for about 40 years in Japan, is the one who teaches modern sculpture at the institute.

This year, he has six students studying the course. He started the course last year.

He said that modern sculpture involves the artistic practice of creating sculptures using various materials and techniques that deviate from traditional approaches.

“In contemporary Japanese sculpture, we use plaster, bronze or new materials. In Bhutan, they use only clay making and make it dry. No bond or ceramic. It is very unique. Most of the Bhutanese sculptures are Buddhist sculptures.”

These days, the students are learning how to sculpt human faces and hands using clay. They are using pictures in place of models.

Hiroyuki Suzuki said that having a three-dimensional or 3D model will help students capture the details of the model.

However, he added that it is hard to get 3D models in Bhutan.

“We have to see a 3D model and make the 3D sculpture. Not from the two dimensions. From 3D, we find many skills and many forms. But just photography, meaning two-dimensional, is not enough to find many forms and movements and construction. It is not easy to find it from two dimensions.”

During the six-month course, he will teach on how to sculpt human body parts, animals, and miniature models, among others.

Despite the challenges, students and teachers at the institute say that learning modern sculpture makes Bhutanese traditional sculpture more detailed.

“From what I see, there are many differences between modern sculpture and Jimzo. The old statues are mostly as per the Buddhist text. But nowadays, not only statues but we have to sculpt a lama or king and such. If we learn their method, we can replicate their features. By learning both Jimzo and modern sculpture, we can sculpt better,” said Dawa Penjor, a Jimzo teacher.

“When I got enrolled, I thought it would be hard but as I learn and practice more, it is easy. When it comes to opportunity, as we learn more I think we can get more opportunities to make more sculptures,” said Tshewang Dorji, a student.

According to the institute, the market opportunity for modern sculpture is better than Jimzo.

Singye Dema

Edited by Tshering Zam 

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