(B. 1962)
Artificial Rock: No. 104
signed in Chinese; dated and numbered '2006 4/4' (lower back)
stainless steel sculpture
132 x 100 x 266 cm. (52 x 39 3/8 x 104 3/4 in.)
edition 4/4
Executed in 2006

Brought to you by

Felix Yip
Felix Yip

Lot Essay

Zhan Wang's first inspiration for his Artificial Rock series came from Beijing's changing urban environment. As China's economy blossomed, so did vast numbers of constructed tall modern buildings yet on many, elements of traditional Chinese architecture such as tiled roofs and facades remain ironically intact. Zhan Wang plays on this idea of the ancient complementary and divergent contemporary elements in his sculptures, commenting on the relevance and irrelevance of 'cultural' symbols in today's world through his Artificial Rock series. Traditionally placed in gardens amongst small streams and pavilions since the Song dynasty, Scholar's rocks provided a focus for meditation and contemplation and were guarded by a set of five principal aesthetic criteria - thinness (shou), openness (tou), perforations (lou), wrinkling (zhou) and uniqueness (chou) - which have long been identified for judging scholar's rocks and elements equally embodied in Artificial Rock No. 104 (Lot 1019).

As Zhan Wang himself states,"Using stainless steel to create my ornamental rocks I force the imagination to play upon the texture of a raw material [and] I can produce a more direct and pure effect upon the viewer. This feeling is an illusion of matter that is necessary for uplifting the spirit of mankind." Formed from hand hammered sheets of stainless steel, the surface of Artificial Rock No. 104 is both textual in its points and crevices as it is smooth in its liquid mercury like shimmer. While other artists such as Jeff Koons similarly use stainless steel the sculpture acts as a playful ornament in its environment while Zhan Wang's sculptures aim to become one its surrounding environment, refracting the colors and light as though trying to camouflage itself as part of nature itself. The base of the sculpture is relatively small and pointed and rises like a crescent wave into the air; one can imagine if this were a real rock, the wind and years shaved the rock into its unique formation which almost looks as though it will elevate graciously into the air. As the viewer walks around the large form, we are invited to gaze from below and above through the meandering tunnels of the rock to admire its uniqueness from all perspectives. Catching our reflection in the mirrored surface reveals a distorted sight of our selves and our surroundings thus emphasizing some of the twisted perspectives in today's society. The sculpture as such becomes a new medium for contemplating the opposing forces of old and new, natural and man made form. These forces have always formed a yin-yang dichotomy within which we negotiate our lives. While the new is rapidly eradicating the old, he suggests that tradition need not disappear despite the ascendancy of the modern.

Zhan Wang's Artificial Rock No. 104 is the perfunctory and quintessential example that old and new, natural and manufactured can coexist as a harmonious whole, just as yin and yang does so long as society is given the outlets and resources to bridge those divides. As a series, Zhan Wang's monumental Artificial Rock is not only relevant to modern China but also have been exhibited at sites such as Mount Everest in 2004, San Francisco and The British Museum in 2008. In each cityscape or natural environment which his sculptures are displayed, Zhan Wang highlights the contradictory qualities of the time-honored and current, natural and man made that exists throughout history.

More from Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art (Evening Sale)

View All
View All