This week we have welcomed two large pieces of Chinese sculpture to Wisley. These striking pieces are here until 25th June as part of CHINA NOW, the UK's largest ever festival of Chinese culture. (Visit www.chinanow.org.uk for more details).
Outside the Laboratory, at the end of the Canal is a piece called Legacy Mantle, a Mao Suit, by Sui Jianguo. It is made of bronze and is 240 x 160 x 100 cm in size. Since 1997 Sui has been working on a series of Mao Suit works that make direct reference to, and often take the form of, the government approved clothing introduced by Mao Tse Tung after the Cultural Revolution in China. Always fabricated from solid, heavy materials these works present the Mao jacket both as an icon of cultural revolution and freedom as well as a symbol of restriction and limitation. Sui says that none of the Chinese have truly taken off their Mao suits even though the revolutionary era is over.
Sui is currently Associate Professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Since 1992 Sui's work has been shown internationally, including exhibitions in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore, India, Australia, the USA, the United Kingdom, France and Belgium.
The second piece, Zhang Wang's Scholars Rock No. 72, was installed beside the Chinese Pavilion on Seven Acres on Monday. The renowned Chinese conceptual sculptor Zhan Wang explores opposing forces in his sculptures, fascinated by the meeting point between “traditional and modern”, “natural and manmade” and “illusion and reality”.
Chinese people traditionally treasure large, naturally craggy rocks, which they place in gardens and appreciate as miniature “artificial mountains” using them as a means of contemplating nature. Zhan updates this practice by moulding sheets of stainless steel around a rock (sourced from quarries of the Jiangsu Province), creating his own hollow, rock-like sculptures for contemporary urban spaces.
By changing the natural material of a rock into an entirely manmade object, the mirrored surfaces of the jagged sculptures reflect and break up surrounding images turning “reality” into an endless series of shifting illusions. The rock's reflective surface holds up a mirror to the viewer making ”man” rather than nature the object of spiritual contemplation. The Scholars Rock No. 72 measures 260 x 132 x 70 cm and comprises of stainless steel.
Zhan Wang produced his first Fake Rock in 1995 as a reaction to the fast and often ill-considered process of urbanisation.
We hope you enjoy these sculptures in the Garden over the next few weeks.