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    Sale 2604

    Chinese 20th Century Art (Day Sale)

    25 May 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 278


    Price Realised  


    (Born in 1938)
    Taiji Series - Single Whip
    signed and dated 'Ju Ming; 91' in Chinese (lower back)
    wood sculpture
    28 x 40 x 35.5 cm. (11 x 15 3/4 x 14 in.)
    Executed in 1991

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    The study of Taiji brought Ju Ming to a realization about the relationship between body and mind, and the source of strength and bringing it into balance. He came to understand the philosophy of man in union with the universe and the importance of erasing boundaries between self and other, and began creation of a series of individual and paired Taiji sculptures.

    The Taiji concept originates from the Chinese 'Book of Chang' (the 'Yi Jing' or 'I-Ching') and its Ying-Yang dualism, one of the most fundamental concepts about the universe and natural law in traditional Chinese culture. The Ying lines and Yang lines of the Book of Change's hexagrams made their earliest appearance in the 'Lian Shan' book of divination of the early Xia Dynasty. Those early Chinese saw Ying and Yang as the central elements of Qi, and from the complex and multitudinous changes and appearances of things, they derived eight fundamental states of matter that evolve from Ying and Yang, which were heaven, earth, water, fire, thunder, wind, mountain and lake. Ju Ming's Taiji sculptures reflect the teachings of Zhang Sanfeng, Taoist priest of the Wudang Mountains in the later years of the Yuan Dynasty, who wrote in his 'Song of the Thirteen Techniques': 'Always keep your mind on your waist; your abdomen should be still and full of chi. The spine should be straight and full of spirit, the body relaxed and the head upright.' Ju Ming's individual sculpture pieces evoke the ambience of 'qian-kun' (heaven and earth) or Ying and Yang in peace and harmony. This kind of composed and unified strength, in the Ju Ming sculptures depicting sparring, develops into the feeling of clash of opposing energies.

    Ju Ming speaks of 'outer achievement through inner quality', which he further explains, in art, means that 'in a work that is harmonious and alive, the texture of each part should flow in a way that serve's the work's inner energy and sense of motion, in order to present an overall shape that has a rhythm of the most natural and understandable kind. This is the kind of vitality that is transmitted when the inner qualities achieve outer effects.'

    To achieve the desired effect in bronze entails a harmonious balance between feverish attentiveness and tranquil meditation. This notion is undoubtedly tacit in minimal visual construction of his Taiji Series. Utilizing a medium that is seemingly rigid, the artist bares the skin of its texture to its utmost use, conveniently amenable to the concept itself. The density of the medium, the bulky shaping and the raw coloration of the sculpture should typically construct a visual mass, but instead, it enigmatically curves a certain lightness to the movement of these figurines with Ju's erudite implication of taiji movements that sway the hands and legs of these individuals in elegant swift and powerful poise. Constructing a sculpture of a internal martial arts of Taiji already confirms his brilliant artistic and technical captitude. The graceful softness of the silent movement of taiji that grants the larger conditions of longevity and health metaphorically reinstates the exterior qualities of Ju Ming's oeuvres.
    Taiji Series-Prepartaion for Underam Strike (Lot 280) is a starting pose for Taiji. The solid block of the legs is rooted sturdily on the ground only to reflect the calm stability of the mental and physical preparation OF forthcoming action. The Taiji Series-Push Hand (Lot 311) and Taiji Series- Golden Rooster Standing (Lot 314) are fixed in postures that demonstrate the significance in physical balance and also coyly implicating an illusion of movement through the well-controlled crudity of the material and the seemingly lyrical engraving of the lines that trace the physical contour. Seen in particular with the Push Hand, Ju Ming in sophisticated insinuation presents strength in simplicity with his interplay with nature in his working process; following the natural texture and lines to form the highest purest physique that still bear the initial visual value of bronze, hence an illusion of a clump of material, rather than a sculpture, when seen from afar.

    Retaining nature with man made technicality, Ju Ming constantly meditates back on his internal clarity by reverberating the philosophy of Ying and Yang. Taiji Series-Single Whip (Lot 279) and (Lot 313) are different in it's physical contour but alike in its posture. Here, Ju Ming's artistic probity is heightened with the spectator's realization of the difference in the texture, which reaffirms his dualism of allowing the nature to permeate from the intrinsic medium to craft different physique to these two statues, in return bestowing them a sense of individualistic spirituality. Immense in scale, (Lot 279) bears smoothness on its surface, amplifying its crisp structure that furthers the sturdiness of its assured posture. The artist stresses on the significance in cultivation, where he believes self-cultivation is what cultivates the purest, most honest artworks. Perhaps, this self-meditation is what triggers the abstract forms of his sculptures as he studiously reflects to his inner spirit to summon sincere calmness and strength, sensations that are intangible and overwhelming to describe in realistic forms.

    Ju Ming became the seventh apprentice of Li Chin-Chuan, a notable master of woodcarver. The thorough personality of the artist is possibly due to his master's influence, taught to appreciate each steps of processes with attentive care, Master Li bestowed a solid foundation to Ju's sculptural production. Ju has stated 'The training I underwent made me so dexterous that when I cut a piece of wood, if I wanted the cut to be one inch deep, it would be one inch deep, and if I wanted it to be three centimeters wide, it would not be wider than three centimeters.' This painstaking dexterity is without doubt visible in his wooden sculptures. Both the Taiji Series-Single Whip (Lot 281) and (Lot 278) contain a different aesthetic element of those depicted in bronze. Owing to the versatile, wholesome texture of the wood, the lines engraved ranges in depth, excavating the original bark of the tree and reinterpreting it into its own textural pattern. However, Ju still retains the natural surface by tastefully carving an impression of the grain of the wood. The light glistens off the ranged curves of the line inscriptions embodied with energy that in overall incite a captivating sense of motion, grounding these statues into a piece of nature's own product. Premeditated yet impulsive, Ju Ming's sculptural pieces may appear overtly minimal and abstract but his technical prowess in Bodhidharma (Lot 312) reveals that he is an artist who is capable of molding his creative ideas into whichever form he wishes, hence, reiterating his artistic foundation that allegorize his character and concept.

    Ju Ming's sculptural works provide us his concept that the artist should 'let your hands do what they know; results will come without thinking', 'Without thinking simply means without conscious thought. I believe that you don't need to think during the creative process, and that in fact you must not think. In that way you preserve the seriousness of the creative act so that it won't degenerate into something else.'


    Private Collection, Asia