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Taichi Series - Single Whip

Taichi Series - Single Whip
signed and dated 'Ju Ming '83' (incised on the lower back)
wood sculpture
48.8(H) x 79.9 x 48.6 cm. (19 1/4 x 31 1/2 x 19 1/8 in.)
Executed in 1983
Max Hutchinson Gallery, New York, USA
Private collection, Europe (acquired from the above by the previous owner in 1984)
Anon. Sale, Sotheby's Hong Kong, 3 October 2016, Lot 5045
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Juming Culture and Education Foundation.
New York, USA, Max Hutchinson Gallery, Summer Group Exhibition, May - June 1984.

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Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡)

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Lot Essay

As is the case with all the prized pieces of art, the movement of every grain, every texture, is defined by the innate spirit and energy of the work to faithfully and naturally demonstrate the kinetic energy of the form. This is the focus of 'actualizing the exterior with the soul’ to vocalise the pulse of life. A successful piece of art is never accomplished through the haphazard assemblage of loose bits: it is alive with its own defining character, instinctual, and one-of-a-kind. This is the spirit of natural. – Ju Ming

Ju Ming's Taichi Series, his tour de force between the 80's and 90's that earned him international acclaim, was the most iconic creation of his artistic career, and a consummate archetype of spiritual aesthetic traditions in dimensionalised Eastern art. Ju Ming began his career as a woodcarver in traditional Taiwanese wood sculpting. His apprenticeship instilled in him a strong tie to the land, and skills that worked in his favor as he discovered his niche during the 1970's in creating vivid, Kung Fu-inspired sculptures, with remarkably concise forms, yet breathtaking kinetic construction and dynamic application. Ju Ming debuted his first solo exhibition in 1976 at the National Museum of History in Taipei, featuring his Nativist Series that centers on the portrayal of meticulous, lifelike sculptures. He shot to fame and was highly praised by people far and wide. However, Ju Ming believed these works drawing from historical figures and home nostalgia could not help him reach the height of artistic freedom he was pining for.

At the advice of his mentor, Yang Ying-feng, Ju took up Taichi during the late 70s for its health benefits. The term Taichi was first seen in the Chinese classic text of Zhuangzi, 'The Way… came before Taichi, the great ultimate, lies above Liuji, the zenith, but is not high; it lies beneath the nadir but is not deep. It is prior to heaven and earth, but is not ancient; it is senior to high antiquity, but it is not old.' This discourse explains the being of 'the Way' in the existence, transitions and transformations of all things in the universe. The focal point of Taichi, the Chinese martial art, adheres to this philosophical school of thought accordingly and encourages meeting brute force with softness, counteracting motion with stillness. Ju Ming incorporated the practice into his artistic pursuits to coalesce the philosophical principles of Confucianism into modern sculptural presentations and the result is the Taichi Series, a collection that is quintessentially an aesthetic return to nature, a faithful reflection of life.

Ju Ming's Taichi Series, inspired by the movements of Taichi, involves a simplification of sculptural forms in which the chiseling of materials follows not forms but ideas. Ju Ming attempts in his Taichi figures to grasp a kind of evolving dynamic. His Taichi figures embody movement within stillness, and though he captures just one frozen moment of a particular movement, his figures are charged with the sense of energy about to be released, an energy that carries the given pose through to completion. Viewed from various angles, as each angle reveals an entirely different perspective, provides a series of surprises and offers a perfect sense of ongoing shifts in time and space. In its ability to reveal ever changing forms from different viewing points, Ju Ming's sculptures resemble the bronze works of Italian futurist Umberto Boccioni, though in their overall kinetic sense and solitary presence they also recall the stone sculptures of Constantin Brancusi.

Single Whip presented in this auction is hailed as the iconic work within the Taichi Series. Compared with early works of the Taichi Series, this wood sculpture created in 1983 was carved with bold and daring cuts to conjure up the body movements, culminating in the true meaning of "Taichi” - the spirit pervades not only in the form, but permeates in the cuts and crevices of the wood, harnessing the energy and force as Taichi is meant to be.

Yang Ying-feng once noted Ju Ming's works "have entered the realm of oneness of heaven and humanity, where Taichi has opened up his mind; it can be clearly seen from the impressive verve with which he engraves the wood." Single Whip illuminates Ju Ming's mastery control of the blade. Working with material such as wood, the artist retains the natural qualities of the wood that comes from trees weathered through rain and wind, hot and cold, which give each and every piece of wood its unique texture, tone, and flaws. Ju Ming flows with the texture and shape of the wood, dynamically cutting and engraving to harmoniously converge technique with nature. This resonance with nature can be felt by the viewer.

Casting off the uncompromising attention to external shape brings out the natural grain of the wood. Ju Ming has reached the bliss of letting go in his creation-no trace of hesitation, only straightforward cuts-which embodies the artist's philosophy of the hands and the mind harmonized with spontaneity. The so-called spontaneity is cutting without deliberation. Ju Ming believes creation doesn't come from thinking and should not come from thinking. A good art piece should not be "designed", but born naturally. This echoes the "forgotten" philosophy championed by Taichi practitioners, in which the mind and body are attuned to be free of the techniques, the moves, and the forms. Ju Ming has expressed that his creations are at one with traditional Chinese spirit, like Bada Shanren whose freehand brushwork imbues his ink wash paintings with eclectic liberty, going so far as to forgo the integrity of objects. Different from other artists who would generally finish painting and then place their signature and chop at the appropriate spot, Bada Shanren would render a mental blueprint then let his unrestrained creative surge take over to express what's on his mind. The results are powerful works animated with life. Meanwhile, Ju Ming symphonises emotions and techniques through his sculptures, in the process forming a set of modern sculpture vocabulary that moves the world yet still unique to himself.

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