Ju Ming (Zhu Ming)
- Ju Ming (Zhu Ming)
- Taichi Arch
- incised with the artist's signature in Chinese and dated 91
- 36.5 by 111.8 by 33.6 cm. 14 3/8 by 44 by 13 1/4 in.
Ju Ming Taichi Arch
The "Taichi" series by international sculpture master Ju Ming is well known in art circles. The artist has continually worked on the project since 1970, striving to advance the depth of his works through form and philosophy. Ju Ming has received academic recognition for his Taichi arches in particular, including Gate of Wisdom, a landmark of the Chinese University of Hong Kong campus; the Taichi Arch on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus in the United Kingdom with the symbolical subtitle of Gate of Health; and the Taichi Arch collected last year by the world's top university museum, Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, installed beside the main entrance, opposite of Three Piece Reclining Figure, a sculpture by Henry Moore, who enjoys national-treasure status in the United Kingdom. The Taichi Arch （Lot 1014） featured in this autumn is one of the artist's most adept wood carvings. Well-suited to indoor exhibition, it recalls the furnishings of traditional Chinese personal libraries. A combination of nature and labour, tradition and modernity, it is an object to be caressed and savoured, and it manifests the restraint and perpetuity of eastern aesthetics.
Striding towards Abstraction: the Culmination of the "Tai Chi" series
According to Ju Ming, the thirty-year evolution of the "Taichi" series can be divided into three stages:
"In the first stage, I relied on photographs to carve the various tai chi boxing positions. These works were executed in a realist style. As my understanding of tai chi boxing deepened, I gradually began to break free from the limitations of the tai chi boxing practice. I continued to simplify the work with the aim of strengthening its sense of volume and space. In the final stage, the tai chi sculptures were at their most abstract and culminated in the final form: the tai chi arch. Although the taichi arch evolved from the ‘Push Hand’ movements, it allows my imagination to run freely and not to be hampered by the actual positions of these movements."
This sequence of ideas demonstrates the artist's evolving understanding of tai chi: first, a martial art with "form", then a "formless" philosophy. His sculptures consequently evolved from simplified human forms to highly abstracted arches. Taichi Arch is composed of two figures engaged in intense combat, but it does not seek to simulate boxing; rather, it draws on the shape of the two figures to manifest the binary tai chi philosophy of Yin and Yang. The hands and feet of the two figures meet not in the hysteria of combat to the death but in an eternal cycle of force. The figure on the right rests a hand on the ground for support as he delivers a kick that forms the arch shape; the combatant on the left blocks with his hands as his feet pivot towards his attacker, suggesting the dynamism of the revolving Yin-Yang symbol. The artist uses the human form to express the movement of the cosmos, channeling the emphasis in Chinese philosophy on unity between man and nature. Yin and Yang present a dichotomy between the material and the intangible, and although Taichi Arch is composed of a material substance, the "gate" that it forms is an intangible void that draws viewers from one space to another. Thus, the conception of the arch represents a new pinnacle in the artist's thinking.
Line, Plane, and Volume: the Structure and Materials of Ju Ming's Sculptures
In the Western art system, "point, line, plane, and volume" are the fundamental elements of form. In painting, the emphasis is on point, line, plane, and the simulation of volume on a flat surface. In sculpture, line, plane, and volume take precedence, and the concept of point is concealed within the process of creation or appreciation: the resting or focal point. Ju Ming's sculptures possess a richly organic beauty precisely because he strives to preserve the basic elements of sculpture. A series of geometric planes contribute to the simple, angular, and sturdy massiveness of Taichi Arch, and on each of these planes the linear traces of the sculptor's chisel and the wood's natural grain are preserved. This manner of shaping the sculpture from line to plane and from plane to volume is evident throughout the "Taichi" series. From a technical standpoint, this is a crucial departure from Ju's earlier "Nativist" series, in which Ju polished away such vestiges. He continued the same practice in his later "Living World" series.
Ju Ming's creative philosophy values simplicity, an attribute reflected in his choice of materials. This is especially evident in his use of wood. Ju comes from a background of traditional craftwork, and wood is the medium with which he is most familiar. Each piece of wood has its own natural grain. In order to release wood's potential, the artist first stores it in a warehouse and allows it to weather and corrode until only the most solid parts remain. Only then will he begin to carve it. Oxford professor Michael Sullivan describes Ju's concern with wood's pliability and firmness as "a heroic dialectic struggle with the recalcitrant medium. We see the evidence of this struggle in the finished work; we feel it ourselves," Sullivan states vividly. "So, in a mysterious way, we come very close to the struggles and feelings of Ju Ming himself, and are one with him." The traces of the sculptor's tools on Taichi Arch subtly combine with the natural state of the material just as the two dueling combatants combine to form an archway, or as the artist's will and the symbolicly naturalistic wood are both ultimately lost in the sculpture's greater totality.