"Embedded in the hollow rocks wrapped under a glamorous surface is imagination, which, exactly, is my definition of the real life today. "
- Zhan Wang
The creation of the Artificial Rock series began in 1995; with stainless steel Zhan Wang explores the traditional Chinese culture's approach towards Nature: being a static and inanimate natural material. Stone however has been endowed with a symbol of life
in literati's conception; in classical Chinese grove gardens, rocks are an important three-dimensional element in scenic composition, it is artificially and deliberately transformed, adjusted and processed to manifest a succinct generalization of nature, thus bridging the communication between man and nature, as such the grove garden is transformed from a methodic architectural space into a natural one that is free from restraints. In terms of symbolic meaning, rocks successfully accomplish the transition from man to earth and then to heaven, so as to reach harmonious unification of man, earth and heaven. Under the cultural denotation and symbolic representation, Zhan Wang marked the change in era by the media's specialty - with its smooth and shiny appearance, the Artificial Rock No. 131 (Lot 1028), suspended in the air, has a mirror-like surface in all dimensions, which reflects its surroundings, and acts as an extension to Zhan's remark that "the possibility that everything could be distorted and fragmented may lead to all sorts of imagination and the emergence of hope" . Within the borderless reflection, a striking contrast is created between the work's huge volume and its illusionary property.
Alberto Giacometti once remarked that "figures were never for me a compact mass, but like a transparent construction." Under his influence, Zhan Wang breaks through the real visual experience, and focuses on the openness of figures. As Artificial Rock No. 131 does not point to any specific direction, it enjoys more freedom in modelling and surface composition; and the 'holes' in the work not only embody the imagination Chinese had towards the Taoist's Grotto Paradise, but also strengthen the incorporation of rocks into their natural environment, by its spatial representation in between abstract and concrete, isolated and penetrated. With the possibility of penetrating and flowing between internal and external spaces, communication between small spaces and larger natural spaces is feasible, which, to a certain extent, reflects people's attempt to break away from the rituals of feudal society, as well as their desire of returning to nature.
For the Chinese, the universe is constituted complementarily by Yin and Yang, which represent tenderness and toughness respectively. Piece by piece, Zhan Wang manually hammers sheets of stainless steel to produce the natural texture of the rocks, which then undergo further polishing to give a smooth surface. This kind of media application and modelling can be said to encompass both aspects of Yin and Yang, along with the development of rocks with time. In the past it was the scholar's rocks, which act as some elegant ornaments on the working desk; now we have Artificial Rock No. 131 floating in midair. Changes in the nature of rocks are evident: originally standing vertically on the ground or on desks, the rocks demonstrated certain sense of volume and mass under gravity; however, the weightlessness of Artificial Rock No. 131, which seems to be pulling upward by some unknown force, leads to an association with the Chinese mythology of Nuwa repairing the wall of heaven. This work combines human being's inherent curiosity and exploration towards abstract spaces, which with the rock drifting, dismisses constraints of reality, thus further echoing with the Taoist spirit of Unity of Man and Heaven.
In the process of Chinese modernization, changes took place in its urban appearance. Therefore under the glittering surface and ostentatious glamour, Zhan Wang's Artificial Rock No. 131 reflects our pursuance for material lifestyle. A set of five principal aesthetic criteria - thinness (shou ), openness (tou) , perforations (lou), wrinkles (zhou) and uniqueness (chou) - have long been identified for judging scholar's rocks. In applying the same aesthetic standards in the creation of his works, Zhan Wang creates a multi-layered cultural representation and denotation of artificial rocks, and induces the viewers' imagination from material to spiritual. By juxtaposing new and old, natural and artificial, concrete and abstract, Zhan Wang's floating Artificial Rock No. 131 has in fact redefined our situation and environment right at the moment, and by viewing and thinking from different perspectives, it has demonstrated a perfect balance between time and space.