Ju Ming Taichi Series - Single Whip

Tanya Baxter Contemporary
Sep 2, 2019 4:37PM

Ju Ming - Taichi, Single Whip, 1985, bronze, edition 6 of 6, 280 x 475 x 21

Ju Ming, arguably Taiwan’s most influential sculptor, was born in Miaoli, Tongsiao, in 1938. Since 2000 Ju Ming’s achievements in art have received greater appreciation in all fields. In 2003 he was awarded honorary Doctor of Art by Fu Jen Catholic University. They appreciate what Ju Ming has done to pursue further achievements in art and are thankful for his dedication to art education in Taiwan and internationally. Ju Ming has also received the cultural award from the Executive Yuan - considered the highest honor and prize for anyone involved in art and cultural circles in Taiwan. They are seen as lifetime achievement awards given to people who have made great efforts to preserve and promote art and culture. In 2007 Ju Ming was awarded the Fukuoka Art and Culture Award for his dedication and effort in the development of Asian culture, becoming the second Taiwanese artist to receive this award.

Ju Ming has had many major solo exhibitions around the world, at London’s South Bank Centre, which then travelled to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Central England; a public solo exhibition in Paris in collaboration with dealer Herve Oldermatt & Enrico Navarra in Place Vendome; and a in 2003 an exhibition in Berlin near the Adlon Hotel, starting at the arch of the Brandenburg Gate – an iconic location where once Hitler’s soldiers paraded and now is a tourist and cultural hub.

These exhibitions helped solidify Ju Ming in the Western art world and marked a new zenith in his career. His accomplishments in Asia and the rest of the world have positioned Ju Ming in the highest levels of the international art world. Without a doubt, Ju Ming is the most highly acclaimed Chinese master sculptor. His current market is strong, with his high auction record at £2,362,000, and his future market will certainly be a promising one.

Ju Ming’s Taichi Series, in particular his Single Whip sculpture, is considered the milestone of the artist’s career. The work coincided with the artist’s first leap onto the international artistic stage, and drew avid commentary and attention from critics at home and abroad. In 1978, a 40 year old Ju Ming and his Taichi Series travelled to Japan for an exhibit at the Tokyo Central Art Museum. The bronze sculpture Single Whip was the first to be acquired by the Hakone Open-Air Museum. It was Ju Ming’s first pieced inducted into the collection of an international art institution, and remains the most famous among the Taichi Series sculptures. The origins of the piece can, in fact, be traced to 1976, when Ju Ming created a wooden sculpture entitled Kung Fu, which debuted at the National Museum of History in Tapei. The posture of the Kung Fu figure perfectly prefigures the form and energy of Single Whip. It can be said that the maturation and crystallization of ideas that led to Single Whip signified the birth of the Taichi Series and Ju Ming’s subsequent long and brilliant artistic journey. Fast forward a couple of decades following the creation of Single Whip, and Ju Ming was now an artist whose sculptures had stood upon the grounds of the Place Vendôme in Paris as well as many other cities around the globe in solo exhibitions. Single Whip invariably appeared in these exhibits, hailed for its iconic status within the Taichi Series. The artist has always regarded this piece as the launching point of his individual style. The sculpture uses elements of traditional Chinese sculpture techniques while at the same time echoes the new philosophies of modern sculpture. In this melding together of East and West Ju Ming has led the way for Chinese modern art onto a path defined by the artist’s singular style.

The form of Single Whip is concise, its outlines sharp and distinct, emphasizing two vital elements in creating sculptures of human figures: lines and geometric surfaces. The lines descend from the spirit of the Chinese sculpture tradition, while the geometric surfaces reflect modern Western artistic theory. Ju Ming ingenuously fuses these two traditions into one, creating his own expressive form and sculptural style.

Single Whip highlights the element of lines, powerfully conveying the momentum and rhythm within the spirit of taichi. In the Chinese sculpture tradition, particular emphasis is given to the weight and power of the line, with forceful lines delineating the outlines of human figures, and flowing, fluid lines conjuring a feeling of continuous movement and dynamism. Like the Dancing Courtesan from the Western Han Dynasty, Single Whip’s entire form is nimble and prodigious, its arms extended with one above and one below, the figure assured and graceful, its physique lithe. All of this is conveyed through two extended lines, dynamic as the clouds rolling through the mountain valleys. Ju Ming’s inheritance of the Chinese tradition of lines is profound and thorough. Created in 1985, the bronze sculpture of Taichi: Single Whip clearly illuminates his mastery. The most captivating aspect of the work are the concise and deep cuts of the blade, fully capturing the viewer’s attention, guiding it through a fluid and moving point of perspective. This evokes an experience similar to that of viewing Matisse’s Blue Nude II in which the flowing lines of negative white space are almost more mesmerizing than the blue itself. The traces of chiselling and hammering upon the figure of Taichi: Single Whip vividly capture the form of the marital artist in practice. In Single Whip, three types of sculpted lines and energies converge, like the aesthetics of the “textured strokes” of Chinese calligraphy and ink painting. In this way, the artist has ingeniously applied the most striking lines from traditional Chinese painting to the art of sculpture.

Tanya Baxter Contemporary