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(ZHU MING, B. 1938)
Taichi Series - Sparring
signed in Chinese; dated '93' (lower back);
signed in Chinese; dated '90' (lower back)
two wood sculptures
40 x 30 x 41 cm. (15 3/4 x 11 7/8x 16 in.); &
45 x 38 x 51 cm. (17 3/4 x 15 x 20 in.)
Executed in 1990 & 1993 (2)
Private Collection, Asia
Council for the Support of the Ceramic Arts/Backup Support Council Gallery, Ju Ming Sculptures, Taipei, Taiwan ( Preparation For Underarm Strike illustrated, unpaged).

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Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

Ju Ming, since the seventies, opened up a much broader artistic realm and created a series of more expressive, massive and spirit-oriented works, facilitated by his practice of Taichi and a deeper understanding of Chinese traditional philosophical meanings and philosophy of health preservation. His Taichi sculptures expresses the essence of Chinese cultural spirit such as like "yin yang (positive and negative forces)", "zaoxing (form)", "zhen ti yi yuan (union)". Hence, Taichi series can said to represent the artist's refined expression and careful contemplation of Chinese cultural thinking and spirit. The word Taichi was most initially found in Zhouyi Xici. As what the Confucius has said, "Yi is originated from Taichi. Taichi is divided into two, and therefore the sky and the earth is born. Then followed with the four seasons of the spring, summer, autumn and winter. Eight Trigrams are then generated to become the basic principles of all the creation and settle the natural phenomena in the world." Taichi describes the state of the universe before separation, is regarded as the origin of all the species. When a set of boxing starts, Wuchi (limitless) is turned to Taichi, dividing a union to Yin and Yang, becoming Four Phenomena, producing Eight Trigrams, settling Five Elements, and ultimately achieving a unanimous, relaxed and even bodily movement that seems like the non-stoppable circulation of Taichi and Yin Yang without any recognizable prints and traces.

The Taichi series by Ju Ming consists of important creations which have solidified Ju Ming's status in the Asian art community. This series exemplifies Ju's departure from set themes and restrictions set by specific materials to enter a style of pure spiritualism that marks and establishes the maturity of his modern sculptures. The three pieces of work in this night auction allow us to understand the artist's stream of thinking by providing traits of evolution from representational to semi-representational. Comprising a sense of speed, bold expression and selflessness, Taichi Series-Golden Rooster Standing (Lot 1024), Ju's signature sculptural style is revealed; the work has a clean form but is magnificent. At waist height is an astonishingly large cutting mark that vividly models the energy and sense of speed of a side kick from the leg. The artist has made use of clean and precise sculptural cuttings to mold voluminous surface area, while the moment ready to move is described by detailed carves. It obviously shows the unified motion between the hands, eyes, body, Fa (ways) and Bu (steps) that Taichi has specially stressed on, as well as using slow motion to combat the fast, and station to control action. A manner of balance and tension emerges; a seemingly intrinsic momentum of repose and restrain is carried back and forth. Armed with the concept of "speed" and "intuition", Ju's sculpture shows a removal from rational thinking, exhibiting a constant movement of creative intuition. Hence, Ju has escalated sculptural chopping, hacking, peeling and splitting to the levels and sentiments of the more expressive form found in literati's calligraphy and painting. He asserted that sculptural art is not merely craftsmanship but also, like calligraphy and painting, is adeptly capable of conveying profoundly artistic values and the essence of Chinese culture.

The Taichi Series-Sparring (Lot 1023) in early nineties not only showed the intension of the artist in expressing the strength and form of a sculpture with two individual objects, but also his stress on the balanced relationship between them when they fight. Michael Sullivan, an art historian and professor of Oxford University, has claimed "Taichi is a ceremonial form of fighting when two figures are involved against each other. During the fights, the movement of the opponent is observed and based on that, the fighter can achieve the fine goal of winning oneself". It is like what Sun zi has said in The Art of War "knowing oneself, one knows others; hundred wars hundred win". For the sculpture, though kicking has expressed a tremendous force the crossed hands counter-act and dissolved the move subtly, thus leading the spectators' eyes back and forth. Not explicitly Ju visualised the circulation of Qi (air) at the same time. In between possession and defense, forward and backward, as well as the co-existence of two major components, Yinyang, the very nature of Taichi, has been found. That it creates an organic unit of boxing arts through the principle of complementation and integration. Mastering the overall conception of form, Ju presents the sculpture in a side kick movement. With a few extremely clean marks of chopping, hacking, peeling and splitting of the upper body, he emphatically expresses a sense of movement, well-preparedness and weight. Despite Ju has kept the form and spirit of Chinese martial arts, he actually had a deeper philosophical pursuit of Daoism in his art creation.

In Taichi Series-Boxing (Lot 1025), two people are involved in practicing and pushing hands. The initially independent forms and the corresponding relationship between the moves and spaces have been abstractedly transformed again in the hands of the artist. Of a series of linking forms continuity of forces has been implied. Not to insist upon what he saw, Ju is said to break from the constraints of the moves and steps, and his works have strongly embodied qualities of modern abstraction. As he said "at the moment when I join my hands the Qi (air) flows, and muscle pulls. They connect and vein through the whole body that are finally unified as one." Till now Ju Ming has got no intention to represent the moves and steps of the boxing art. Instead, he prefers "no ways as having ways" on describing the forms of an object, directly referring to the basic body movement. Rooting on the combination of Chinese culture and Taichi boxing arts, Ju's Taichi Series-Boxing have incorporated strong and soft lines, balanced the imbalance forms, and at a particular moment expressed the force like "retaining strength on the arrow and shooting powerfully".

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