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ZHAN WANG (B.1962)
Artificial Garden Rock 107#
signed in Chinese; titled '107#'; dated '2004' and numbered '3/4'
stainless steel sculpture
243 x 98 x 85 cm. (95 5/8 x 38 5/8 x 33 1/2 in.)
edition 3/4
Executed in 2004
Eslite Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
Acquired from the above by the present owner
National Art Museum of China, Zhan Wang, Garden Utopia, Beijing, China, 2008 (illustrated, cover, pp. 50 & 62).
Eslite Gallery, Zhang Wang, Taipei, Taiwan, 2010 (illustrated, p. 39). Taipei: MOT/ARTS, JUT Living Development Co. Ltd., URBAN ARCADIA, Taipei, Taiwan, 2011 (illustrated, pp. 44 & 58).
Beijing, China, National Art Museum of China, Garden Utopia - Zhan Wang Solo Exhibition, 2008.
Taipei, Taiwan, Eslite Gallery, Reflection - solo exhibition by Zhan Wang, 2010.

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Lot Essay

Zhan Wang is one of the most important sculptors in Chinese Contemporary Art. His magnum opus, Artificial Rock Series began in 1995, and has been collected by more than 30 internationally renowned museums and foundations, including the British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He is one of the first Chinese artists be involved with the latter's permanent collection. Within his oeuvre, Zhan is concerned with the relationship between the opposing forces of old and new, natural and man-made forms. These forces have always formed a dichotomy within our lives. However, living between these opposing forces is becoming increasingly difficult for China's urbanites as cities in China grow into modern steel and glass metropolises while erasing traditional buildings in the process. Zhang Wang's Artificial Rock Series is an exploration of these opposing forces in our society.
The Artificial Rock Series was inspired by the collection of traditional scholar's rock that began their popularity from the Song Dynasty; they were important objects of Chinese aesthetic connoisseurship for contemplation and introspection (Fig. 1). Through the stone, the literati were able to contemplate nature, thus making it a medium. The scholar's rock has long been admired in China as an essential feature in gardens. Zhan Wang once noted in his Garden Utopia proposal that "In traditional culture, a garden was not only a place to relax - it was an attitude to life and a therapy for the mind. This is represented by the character 'he' meaning harmony. Although its function is different from that of religion or medicine, it is likewise able to confront and engage with many social problems. The metallic garden in this exhibition presents a dual challenge to both the mind and the body."

By the early Song dynasty (960-1279), small ornamental rocks were collected as accoutrements of the scholar's study, and the portrayal of rocks, became a favorite and enduring pictorial genre. Traditional scholar's rocks were kept in studios of the literati and other elites, and served as objects of contemplation, microcosms of nature and the universe. The artist believes that, "even today, a feeling for stones is embedded deep in the aesthetic soul of the Chinese people and their cultural preferencesK.People are still moved by them and what they represent." With these, Zhan enters into China's long philosophical inquiry into the relationship between man and nature. There is a fundamental difference between western and eastern modes of thoughts regarding nature. Within the Chinese tradition, Nature is a place of harmony and balance where men go to reflect on life and in search for peace of mind.
With Artificial Garden Rock 107# (Lot 24), the artist used stainless steel to create the shiny surface of the rock. Zhan's artificial rocks are made by hammering sheets of stainless steel onto the surface of a jiashanshi or scholar rock. The artist pries the metal away in sections, then varnishes the metal to produce a gleaming, hollow replica of the original form. This process thus shows Zhan Wang's skillful ability to harness technology in presenting his artistic conceptions. The artist has chosen stainless steel to reflect the colours of the surrounding environment. Its reflective surface are dynamic and in flux, unlimited in scope and variation to create a visual spectacle befitting the post-modern era. Its foremost characteristic is its ability to disappear in an environment, self-effacing and hovering between absence and presence. Zhan Wang's artificial rock disappears in nature by means of its natural form, whereas the stainless steel mirror-surface does so by reflecting its environment.

Zhan Wang's sculptural creations reflect his profound understanding of mechanics, structure, and material. The shiny and reflective surface of Artificial Garden Rock 107# is reminiscent but somewhat distinct from the ostentatious glamour and seductiveness of Jeff Koons' Celebration Series but perhaps more akin to the experience of viewing one of Anish Kapoor's sculptures namely Cloud Gate in Millennium Park in Chicago. Through the sculpture's reflective surfaces, Artificial Garden Rock 107# combines the spirituality of the scholar's rock with stainless steel to create a spiritual emblem, merging their associative connotations of stability, prosperity, and wealth. Its evocation of natural elements is also similar to contemporary sculptural artist Gino Miles (Fig. 2). Zhan's works are not necessarily a cynical take on Chinese culture, but an embrace of core Chinese aesthetic values that the artist attempts to revive with contemporary materials.
Zhan Wang's Artificial Garden Rock 107# is a metaphor for the fast changing face of China. In a city like Beijing, the new is rapidly eradicating the old; however, Zhan Wang believes that tradition and the modern can co-exist peacefully. His series of sculptures are a representation of this fast disappearing tradition and nature. Recreating a traditional form with a thoroughly modern material, Artificial Garden Rock 107# is a bridge that connects the past with the present. Stainless steel's durable and lasting quality befits our contemporary usage and tastes. Its practicality and dependability contrast with a society that is constantly in flux. Hence, the artist's choice of material for Artificial Garden Rock 107# is symbolic, reflecting on the collective human desire for timelessness and immortality

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