PAINTINGS and drawings by Chinese artist Weimin He, documenting the changing face of Oxford’s skyline, can now be seen in a stunning new book.

The artist has used his skills to record the different stages of the revamp of the Ashmolean Museum before then painting the redevelopment of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter.

He also recorded the £80m creation of the Bodleian’s Weston Library, which opened to the public in March 2015.

Weimin He’s work as artist-in-residence for Oxford University’s estates services, between 2009 and 2015, has now been properly recognised.

Tower of the Winds: Works on paper by Weimin He has been published in hardback by Oxford University, and captures the stylistic evolution in the artist’s work, from monochrome to vibrant colours.

Weimin He was born in Manchuria in 1964 and the book is dedicated to his parents, his father He Jixing, and his late mother Lu Lilian.

In his artist’s notes he reveals how he found inspiration in amongst the noise and chaos of the construction sites.

He said: “To the viewer the construction site might be dusty and noisy, full of concrete and steel and dominated by motionless materials or machinery.

“After being on the construction site for a while, I gradually started to perceive it from a different perspective.

“The process itself is organic, dynamic and full of life; it shows human power when one witnesses a building grow and to me it became a privilege to observe the process so closely.

“In actual fact, every picture I drew or painted had to come from my direct observation of the site.

“I liked spending time on site sketching what happened in front of me, absorbing and capturing the energy of the site.

“My drawings are often a combination of events over a lengthy period of time, not just a record of one moment.”

Mr He’s efforts were warmly welcomed by civic leaders and university staff who gathered for the book launch in Oxford on Friday.

Among those who has paid tribute is Bodley’s Librarian Richard Ovenden.

He praised the watercolours Weimin He produced of the building of the Weston Library in Broad Street.

Mr Ovenden said: “The dramatic scenes of demolition and construction which he depicts are rendered with an eye to the contradictions that are ever-present in the university: his images perfectly convey the dynamism and the permanence of Oxford.

“Through the richness of his palette he shows us the beauty of these buildings’ point of transition from one structure to another.

“In a city that has been the subject of a great many artists Weimin He has achieved a near miracle: he has brought originality in both subject and approach, and accomplished it with a unique eye and with astounding beauty.”

About 70 of the artist’s friends and supporters gathered at St Luke’s Chapel, formerly the church of the Radcliffe hospital, on Friday for the book launch.

One of those paying tribute to Weimin He’s work was Peter Lawrence, printmaker and former president of the Society of Wood Engravers.

He said: “Your paintings are a brilliant documentary of the building work undertaken in Oxford in the past 10 years and will be referred to for several more decades to come. But they are a good deal more than that.

“There is an accuracy in depiction of both perspective and the working parts of machinery which is never dull, as it is rendered in such lively mark-making.

“And everything is imbued with an atmosphere of place.

“Capturing figures in movement as you do is a remarkable skill; fixing that particular moment in time, yet in each one we can clearly imagine both the scene’s recent past and its near future.

“As a designer, the way you have edited the scenes for greater clarity is clever.

“Overall the combination of documentation with a personal freedom of expression is just perfect.”

Fellow printmaker Joseph Winkelman, former president of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, added that Weimin He’s illustrated account of the ROQ project was a ‘real triumph’.

He said: “I think (the book) will come to be seen as an exceptional achievement of your bounteous imagination and exceptional creativity in making the challenging subject matter so beautifully interesting.”

Green Templeton College appointed Weimin He as its first-ever artist-in-residence in August 2018, following a connection stretching back almost a decade.

The artist’s link with Green Templeton began in 2009, when he was named artist-in-residence for the Oxford University estates services, tasked with documenting the huge redevelopment of the ROQ in the forms of drawing and printmaking.

For the next six years, he chronicled the changes as the old hospital site was transformed into Oxford University’s new academic zone, centring around the Radcliffe Observatory and its famous Tower of the Winds.

He said: “In 2018, I was fortunately invited by the college to be the artist-in-residence.

“This represents a new phase in my life and in my artistic career. I very much enjoy the academic and friendly atmosphere of the college.”

Inspired by Hokusai’s 36 views of Mount Fuji, the artist used the Tower of the Radcliffe Observatory as a focal point for numerous prints.

Weimin He was born in Heilongjiang, Northeast China, in 1964 and studied art from a young age. He studied oil painting, Chinese ink painting and the history of art at Harbin College of Art, where he was awarded a BA, before securing a MA from the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts in Shenyang, where he specialised in printmaking.

He worked as a professional artist in Heilongjiang Printmaking Institute for eight years before being awarded a Muban Foundation Scholarship to study printmaking at the University of Ulster’s School of Art and Design in Belfast, gaining a DPhil in 2005.

He moved to Oxford later that year, taking up a post as Christensen Fellow of Chinese Painting at the Ashmolean Museum.

Weimin He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers, a member of the Chinese Artists’ Association and a Trustee of the Muban Educational Trust.

He is also a life drawing tutor at the Ruskin School of Art.

His artworks have been exhibited or collected worldwide, including by The British Museum, The Ashmolean Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The China National Gallery.

Weimin He said he was delighted with the support he received at the book launch and he is now looking forward to exhibiting his work in Shanghai.

He said: “The show in Shanghai will be on from September 5 for one month and will mostly feature ink paintings - new work. After this book, I will carry on teaching life drawing at the Ruskin School and also I am artist-in-residence at the Green Templeton College.

“I teach Chinese calligraphy at the Fusion Arts during the Oxford University term time.

“I do go back to China from time to time and I wish to introduce more of Chinese art to the West and also introduce British art to China.”

Tower of the Winds: Works on paper by Weimin He is published by Oxford University.