(ZHU MING, B. 1938)
Enter Taichi
signed in Chinese; numbered and dated '2/6 90' (engraved on lower back) bronze sculpture
146 x 96 x 182 cm. (57 1/2 x 37 3/4 x 70 5/8 in.)
edition 2/6
Executed in 1991
Hanart Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Private Collection, Asia
Hanart TZ Gallery, Ju Ming Taichi Sculptures, Hong Kong, China, 1991 (illustrated, unpaged).
Singapore Art Museum, Ju Ming, Singapore, 2004 (different edition illustrated, p. 43).
Guangxi Fine Arts Publishing House, Ju Ming Taichi Sculpture, Guangxi, China, 2006 (different edition illustrated, p. 30).
Hakone, Japan, Hakone Open-Air Museum, organised by Hanart TZ Gallery, Ju Ming One-man Exhibition, 5 August-15 October 1995 (different edition exhibited).

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Felix Yip
Felix Yip

Lot Essay

Ju Ming's sculptures of his Taichi series are intrinsically linked to his physical and mental practice of Taichi, an exercise whose movements and spirit is captured in his profound wood and bronze sculptures. Having taken up the practice of Taichi in the mid-1970s as recommended by his mentor and fellow sculptor Yuyu Yang, Ju Ming's sculptures of the 'Taichi' series embodied not only the physical movement of the practice but the dualistic elements and their mutually creative, energizing aspects. Thus in Taichi Series-Sparring (Lot 1012) of 1991, we find opposing yet balanced twin forms, reflecting and equally absorbing the movements of their counterpart. In Enter Taichi (Lot 1011) of 1990, the viewer becomes the partner in movement and cannot help but be in awe of its sense of movement despite its stoic stance. Working on diverse mediums such as wood, bronze, stainless steel and styrofoam, Ju Ming is an exemplary sculptural artist of the 20th Century who seamlessly incorporated the essence of his artistic and cultural heritage into his works. Like

Ju Ming once noted that "When one sculpts at high speed, cutting strokes follow closely upon each other, and attention is focused on the fleeting moment. At every split second the blade changes the form, and the mind does not have the chance to reconsider. It is the power of instinct that brings the work to completion." This natural process of working is evident in the powerful cuts and strokes used to carve his figures. Sculptural cuts seen in both works are more like calligraphic or painterly brushwork in their swiftness and decisiveness. The veining and scoring of the sculpted work form abstract lines that express meaning; they create abstract images and aesthetic conceptions. The slashing lines and the scars hewn by broad strokes in the wood create mountains and valleys in the wood and bronze, evoking China's broadly impressionistic painting styles or the flowing, incisive calligraphy of Zhang Xu. In the exhibition catalogue for Ju Ming's sculptures at the Tokyo Central Museum of Art in 1977, Yu Ta-Kang likened his student to Qi Baishi for his embodiment of three distinct factors Qi Baishi combined in his paintings: "1- complete rendition of spirit and formK 2- Expressionism combined with details: The broad sweeping lines of Qi's expressionist paintings capture the emotional essence of his subjects yet his works also contain an abundance of meaningful details. 3- A compromise between resemblance and non-resemblance to the subject." (Yuyu Yang as quoted from Ju Ming Wood Sculpture, Dexinshi Chubanshe, 1977). Equally of ink on paper, once the cut begins to be executed, Ju Ming follows through with conviction and does not hesitant to carve his form. Through the cuts he makes, Ju Ming provides weight, movement and expression to these human figures, eloquently providing balance to these large forms.

In Taichi Series-Sparring, there are a vast number of incisions in its wooden surface in addition to the natural grain of the medium, creating unprecedented visual depth and strength to each of the figures. As one figure's leg strikes we can sense his shift in weight to his left and watch as the fabric of his clothing flares in reaction. From afar there even seem to be creases in the folds of his left arm, which rises to complete his pose. As his sparring partner reaches to block the advance his crouching stance reveals his preparation for what is perhaps, an underarm strike. Their existence and movement in this moment is synchronized, even harmonious as the power shifts back and forth between the central arch they form together. Michiaki Kawakita, curator of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, described Ju Ming's work this way in the 1970s: "Ju Ming's work projects a feeling of weight, as does the work of recent modern Japanese sculptors. Ju Ming's works also project a sense of movement, and this too our modern Japanese sculptors do. But none of our modern Japanese sculptors can do both of these things at the same time, as Ju Ming does." The ability to project both weight and movement through sculptural shaping and his use of cutting tools is the central thrust of Ju Ming's Taichi series, and over the following thirty years, it would become the basic principle underlying his work. Enter Taichi in his sizeable stature is bold and confident as he prepares to strike. In consistence with the practice of Taichi's respect towards one's surroundings and inner spirituality, the viewer here becomes the statue's corresponding partner. Standing before him, we can almost feel the energy that exudes from his magnificent form.

In the world of modern Chinese art, painting is perhaps currently enjoying the greatest surge in popularity. But next to painting, it is sculpture that has carried the greatest weight in the Chinese artistic tradition; during the long course of its development, it has gradually evolved from craftsman-like origins into a creative art capable of expressing great beauty. In Asia where the practice of sculpture began as a form of documentary, often seen as busts of prominent figures or political propaganda, it is not until the mid 20th Century that it was even taught at the fine art universities in China. Taught at the Central Academy in Beijing by Wang Linyi and eventually Hua Tianyou from the 1920s and at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts from 1887, early works by artists from these schools reflect realism and fine control. In the 1970s in addition to works by artists such as Wang Keping, Ju Ming with his Taichi series breaks free of this tradition and focuses more on the medium, expression and shape rather than realism. The dynamism of Taichi Series-Sparring and Enter Taichi embody the longstanding traditions of Chinese painting and sculpture and seizes a richness of expression that truly highlights Ju Ming's uniqueness. His global recognition has opened up new directions for sculpture's future development through his own exploration. The spirit of his work and its distinctive formal aspects show development and further discovery from the works of his predecessors and perhaps has influenced contemporary artists' works such as Zhan Wang whose re-worked classical subject possesses comparable significance. Ju uses modern, abstract forms to express traditional Eastern concepts whilst commanding international appeal, thus epitomizing the growth and distinctiveness of Chinese sculpture.

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