"Technically speaking, though the subject matter keeps changing, the spirit of sculpture and carving techniques remains constant through time. Theoretically speaking, this is what I mean by 'art as self-cultivation."
- Ju Ming
Ju Ming's Taichi Series has established an eminent position in the international art scene. Indeed, since his Nativist Series of the mid 1970s, Ju has opened up new directions for Taiwan's modern sculptures. For decades, with the principle of "art as self-cultivation" in mind, he has made several artistic climaxes in the form and content of sculptural art. He explored his own unique artistic language while preserving the values of traditional cultural symbols of China in the modern abstract movement. Featured here are some of the representative works by Ju Ming, ranging from his early Nativist Series, Taichi Series, to his recent Living World Series. In these sculptures we can see Ju Ming's unwavering Chinese cultural spirit conveyed in a Modernist formal language and his continuous creativity and stylistic changes.
In 1968, Ju Ming began an apprenticeship under the well-known Taiwanese sculptor Yuyu Yang. Yang believed that while Ju had a fairly solid build, he was too thin, and advised him to take up Taichi to build up his strength and train his will. His study of Taichi 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 unison with the universe and the importance of erasing boundaries between self and other, and started to create his Kung Fu Series. In 1976, Yang was invited to exhibit at the National Museum of History, but Yang delegated Ju to replace him after the exhibition had been scheduled as Yang was unable to finish his work. Since then, Ju has amazed the world with his artistic talent. The bronze sculpture Taichi Series-Single Whip (Lot 1303) created in 1977 is slightly different to its wooden version in gesture. The artist refines the corners and smoothes over the details, but in form, this piece remains rougher and simpler than his later bronze versions of this pose.
The practice of Taichi strives for "concentrated energy on the inside, calm and ease on the outside." Ju Ming speaks of "outer achievement through inner quality," which he further explains that, in art, means that "in a work that is harmonious and alive, the texture of each part should flow in a way that serves the work's inner energy and sense of motion in order to present an overall shape that possesses natural rhythm. This kind of vitality is transmitted when the inner qualities achieve outer effects." The concepts that shape and inform Ju Ming's sculptures are derived from the essence of both visual art and martial arts. Ju Ming believes that when the spiritual practice of art is carried out, the appropriate artistic vocabulary will naturally emerge. In Taichi Series-Sparring (Lot 1301), one figure poses with strength in a forward lunge, taking the initiative to attack. The other, in defense, strikes a Taichi gesture, but the defense bears offense as the cloud-floating hand gestures naturally pushes forward. Amidst the back and forth movements arises the Taichi concept of yin and yang and continuity. Viewed from different angles, there is a dynamic recycling of lines on carved surfaces, thereby enabling the consecutive blocks to echo with the dynamic lines of the entire work. Taichi Series-Shoulder through Arm (Lot 1304) and Taichi Series-Swing (Lot 1302) both focus on the dynamic force of the arms and legs. The former's gravity is at the legs, creating a form endowed with subdued force; the palms turn up yet reveal an imminent force. The latter sculpture is carved with a sense of weight; the left leg swings out, and the right shoulder slightly tilts downward, ready for the next move.
As mentioned by Ju's teacher, Yang, "Ju's creative path keeps changing, which is a dynamic change and the realistic sense." Shifting from Taichi Series to Living World Series, the artist increasingly broadens the subject matter of human nature. While typical stainless steel sculptures are mostly constructed by welding, Ju deploys a self-made machine of 150-ton-power to help twist his ideal figures' form. Hence, in Living World Series (Lot 1305), there is an endless energy and dynamism hidden beneath the serenity seen on the shiny exterior. In addition to Ju's expressive concern for 'man' and his nature, he also endlessly conveys his inherited spirit of Confucian and Daoism to create innovative and beautiful works.