(ZHU MING, Chinese, B. 1938)
Taichi Series: Sparring
signed in Chinese; dated '88' (incised on the underside)
two wooden sculptures
left: 24 x 47 x 35 cm. (9 1/2 x 18 1/2 x 13 3/4 in.); right: 23 x 34 x 40 cm. (9 x 13 3/8 x 15 3/4 in.)
Executed in 1988 (2)
Kalos Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
Private Collection, Asia

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Lot Essay

Between advancing and retreating, fine lines like the sound of water falling roar right by my ears.Between action and stillness, the energy from springing into action is like a silver vase shattering or the cavalry clashing steel. Between the tangible and intangible, the resolution has yet to be reached, and the tension shocks the core of our beings.
In his early years, Ju Ming studied with the famed sculptor Yuyu Yang. After years of honing his craft, Ju Ming reached a stylistic breakthrough that propelled him into a master sculptor of a new age. His creative endeavours inherited the cultivated lineage of the Eastern Taichi spirit. This ideological foundation opened a new door for the artist bestowing him with a new creative vocabulary in Eastern contemporary sculpture. Amongst the numerous works from the artist, the Taichi Series can be considered as the most archetypal and representative of the main thrust of his artistic output. They are monumental artistic achievements that captivate the attention of the world.
Deceivingly simple, Ju Ming's works carry immense ideological gravitas. Undisrupted by excessive forms, the reduced forms allow the viewers to peer directly into the heart of the sculpture and instantly understand the creative vocabulary of the series. In Henri Matisse's sculpture, one can see the evolution of imageries and forms by examining the series from left to right. In the eyes of the artist, the forms are progressively simplified until they are finally reduced to planes. In comparison, the Ju Ming's sculptures did not stop at the mere simplification of forms. He consciously used energy, rhythm, liveliness, and action as the fundamental elements of composition in his works. In the quest for the perfect consummation between spirit and will, will and energy, energy and vigour, action and stillness, openness and closure, mass-transferring and mass-bearing, Ju Ming masterfully expressed all these complex yet nuanced ideas in a myriad of stances in the Taichi Series. The transformation from forms to energy is further sublimed into spirituality - it brings out the dramatic contrast between action and stillness.
Axe-cut strokes texture is one of the crucial expressions in Ju Ming's work. One can see the same axe-cut treatment of surfaces in Yuyu Yang's work. Despite learning the sculptural techniques from Yuyu Yang, Ju Ming's works manifest the regenerative spirit of Yin and Yang even further. Using yin as the intangible and yang as the tangible, the artist fully materialised the interactions towards harmony between the different Taichi elements in Eastern philosophy. Taking advantage of the flat planes and textures, light and shadow are naturally integrated into the composition of the work. Whether the textures are wood grain or geological materials, the natural elements and the materiality inherent in the medium are always incorporated into the highly idiosyncratic artistic language of Ju Ming.
Taichi Series: Sparring (Lot 58) takes on the scene of a sparring pair with emphasises on balance and the latent tension within the interaction. The kinetic energy and imposing atmosphere between the attacking figure and the squatting figure shroud this confrontation. The visual sensory systems of the viewers are also being assaulted by this standoff. Even though American Abstract Expressionist sculptor Suvero used readymade objects as his medium, he also utilized the same simplified forms to express balance and interaction. In his work Wood and Chains, balance was achieved by the mere connections between extremely small points of contacts. Kinetic energy flows through the entire work via these intricately placed contact points, and the tension-and-release conflicts reside in the sculpture is autonomously perpetuated. Such motions are circulated in this constructed space of the Great Void - it is the spirit of Taichi in the Eastern philosophy. Similarly in Ju Ming's sparring pair, energy is generated by the opposing geometric blocks - it is ceaselessly rejuvenated and eliminated through the conflict between the points of implied impacts. The attacking elbow versus the leaning retreat; the advancing versus the withdrawal; the gazes of the turning head versus the tilting-forward head; and the stillness versus action, these are the four corresponding points of tension between the tangible and the intangible that are in a symbiotic relationship with the environment.
The energy in the sparring stances originates from the sense of Futurism and speed. British artist Wyndham Lewis was strongly influenced by the prevailing movement of Cubism in the early 20th century. He was keenly aware of how Futurism commands a great sense of velocity by manipulating time and space. His works examine how objects in high-speed machinery can be accelerated to generate an impressive amount of energy. At the same time, Eastern and Western artists were simultaneously discovering new ways of depicting speed and power - these are the common visual vocabularies between Percy and Ju Ming. The sparring pair sculptures of Ju Ming are frozen in their swift combat in front of the viewers. Leaping out the two dimensional space, points, lines, and planes are further accentuated by how the planes are joined together - they form brilliant abrupt turns that shock the three-dimensional vision. At the same time, by eliminating any excessive polygons, the most direct and vivid representations are channeled. Such an unembellished visual experience overwhelms the senses of the viewers.
From the Renaissance to contemporary installation art, the nature of sculpture has always been an investigation into positive and negative space and the way in which they contrast and balance each other.Positive space covers the physical object of the sculpture itself. Negative space emanates from the within and out to the air that surround the sculpture. The philosophical and creative basis for Ju Ming's sculptures can be traced back to two forces that share the same origin - Taichi. Taichi is the primordial state of order in the universe. It was a chaotic state when the positive yan and negative yin were not yet separated. It was in this state that all things were born. Because of this, all things in the universe come into existence form nothing, and all things will eventually be annihilated into non-existence. This philosophy is the basis for the Taichi principles of "strength from the absence of desire" and "flexibility overcoming rigidity". Sparring is the most precious and rarest work amongst the Taichi Series. Between the advancing and retreating stances, we can see how flexibility and rigidity are generated from the action: offense is defense; conversely, defense is offense. The sophisticated expression of stillness versus action is the main thread through the philosophy and ideology of Taichi.

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