Regular readers of this site (yes, there are regular readers – more than a quarter of a million of you!) may recall our review of Sylvia Vetta’s documentary-style novel about the Star Group which shook the Chinese art scene to its foundations in 1979. http://chineseart.co.uk/book-review/published-today-an-atmospheric-novel-of-the-days-of-mao-and-the-star-group-of-artists/. Arguably the most important member of this group was sculptor Wang Keping and we were excited to see that Michael Goedhuis will be displaying one of his truly outstanding works in London October 5-9.
Wang Keping was born in Beijing, China in 1949. In 1979 he co-founded The Stars (Xing Xing), an experimental artists’ collective that was born out of the atmosphere of open political activism during the “Beijing Spring.” He moved to Paris in 1984 where he began to explore the human form with a natural intuition of space and balance.
A self-taught artist, Wang Keping is known for his rounded, stylized wood sculptures, most of which are abstractions of the female body. After carving the figures out of single blocks of beech, ash, wild cherry, maple or oak, he lightly burns and then polishes the surface of each one to produce a smooth, lustrous effect. Wang Keping has exhibited widely throughout Europe, Asia and the United States, and his work has been collected by many notable institutions such as the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University.
Specialist Chinese dealer and enthusiast Michael Goedhuis has told us about his relationship with Keping, ‘Wang Keping and I became friends in the 1990s when I visited his studio in Paris. I had been aware of his significance for the avant-garde movement in China since the 1980s, and his role in co-founding The Stars (Xing Xing) group in 1979, during the time of the Beijing ‘Spring’.
‘We believe that he is the most important sculptor of Chinese origin working in the world today, not just for his critical contribution to the evolution of the Chinese avant-garde, but also for his creativity as an international sculptor. ‘Most of his work, as in Standing (2005), the sculpture illustrated, deals with the poignancy of the blend of vulnerability and resilience embodied in the female form. His love of the different personalities of different woods is a dominant feature of his work, and the carving of different trees – beech, ash, wild cherry, maple and oak – transmits nuances of interpretation. This particular work is of great beauty because of its sculptural form and also its luminous patination, which derives from his treatment of the surface of the wood.
‘Wang Keping has attracted a substantial international following and has been acquired by numerous museums throughout the world. I introduced him to Burghley House, the great Elizabethan stately home of the Marquess of Exeter in Stanford in the 1990s, where he carved three enormous sculptures from fully grown trees in the sculpture park. It was a bitterly cold January, and he orchestrated the sculptures from the ground through instructing the woodman who was using an electric saw to scythe through the branches and the trunk in order to create the sculptural figures. ‘
You can see the sculpture Standing on display at PAD London in Berkeley Square between October 5 and 9.