WANG KEPING (1949)
Character, circa 1990
Sculpture in wood, signed lower back
H. 82,5 cm
Provenance: European Private Collection
An artist's certificate, dated 17/06/2008, will be given to the purchaser.
WANG KEPING (1949)
Born in 1949 near Beijing, Wang Keping is one of the founders of the contemporary Chinese avant-garde, in particular because of the key role he played during the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1970s, which led him to leave France in 1984. Since then he has developed a virtuoso work that explores all the possibilities of wood, internationally recognized as one of the most important contributions to contemporary sculpture.
He has produced an exceptional body of work that bears witness to the importance the artist attaches to the work of the material, a relationship to sculpture that is humble, intimate and spiritual, which he defines as follows: "I am a sculptor and I sand with my hands". It is through a mastery of traditional carving techniques, in a timeless approach that goes beyond any notion of style, that Wang Keping manages to capture the quintessence of his subjects. A whole range of themes representative of the artist's work are thus exposed: busts of women, couples, hugs, hybrid animals...
Wang Keping entered the art scene in 1979, founding the dissident group "Xing Xing" (literally "Stars") together with artists such as Ai Weiwei, Ma Desheng and Huang Rui. This avant-garde movement asserts itself against the socialist realism imposed by the Communist Party, with a first manifest exhibition on the gates of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Beijing. Wang Keping exhibits a sculpture that has become emblematic of this resistance to the aesthetic canons advocated by being stifled by a cylinder. A true personification of censorship, this pioneering work embodies the inescapable future of this artistic manifestation, which was quickly banned by the authorities. There followed a protest movement in favour of freedom of art on the day of the 30th anniversary of the People's Republic of China.
In spite of the attempts of the authorities to silence these demands, the scope of this event goes far beyond this repressive framework, the international press immediately took over this public stance, which is today considered as one of the origins of the affirmation of Chinese contemporary art. The New York Times chose Wang Keping's sculpture to appear on the cover of its October 19 issue.
A year later, a second exhibition at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Beijing seals the future of the main protagonists of the Group of Stars. The event provoked an unprecedented popular infatuation to which the authorities responded with a general repression that marked the end of the Peking Spring and forced most of the founding members of the movement into exile.
Since his arrival in France in 1984, Wang Keping has distanced himself from this commitment of the early years and has gradually turned towards a more universal art, mainly derived from woodcarving, this living material whose expressive power he never ceases to reveal. This work marries and sublimates the properties of the woods that the artist selects, in an aesthetic and spiritual search inspired by Taoist philosophy, the ancient statuary of the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), but also by the popular art of the Chinese countryside. It is in fact from the veins, knots and cracks, from the more or less uneven surface of the pieces of wood that the artist extracts the essential forms of his subjects. Each section is thus cleverly chosen and respected in its integrity. This primordial relationship to nature, the primary source of inspiration and formal matrix, is also manifested in the care that Wang Keping brings to the surface of his works. Several stages contribute to giving them a smooth and soft skin, which truly appeals to the touch: the sculptures are first polished to erase tool marks and leave only the relief inherent to the material visible, then burnt with a torch with extreme care, to obtain a final shade unique to each sculpture. This treatment accentuates the sensual dimension conveyed by the suggestive lines and generous roundness of the works, whose overall harmony carries all their truth.
It is not surprising, therefore, that this art of purity, created in the solitude of the studio, is frequently compared to the work of historical artists such as Auguste Rodin, Alberto Giacometti, Henri Moore and, above all, Constantin Brancusi.