Friday, August 12, 2005

Ju Ming in Rueil

Today we visited the town of Rueil-Malmaison in the western suburns of Paris and discovered a collection of monumental bronzes in the park there. They are by the Taiwanese artist Ju Ming. I suppose there must be fifteen or twenty of these bronzes scattered across the park and throughout Rueil. We even spotted one in the middle of a roundabout. This doesn't seem quite appropriate really. I know it is a good idea to walk around sculptures, but to drive around them in a car is really to do the artist a disservice.

The sculptures are based on human figures practicing Tai chi. In some cases the sculptures really are monumental, with figures standing up to around eight or nine feet high, their exaggerated girths suggesting pumped-up sumo wrestlers. However, as the smaller sculpture photographed here shows, although the figures are massive and blocky, they have a sort of delicacy and poise as well. We recognise the human posture, feel the fundamental balance within each piece.

The sculpting process gives the appearances of being a series of chops, perhaps made with a machete or knife into a substance which seems as if it might be wood or clay. This is an appropriate technique for a figure practicing what can be a martial art. Most of the figures, however, seem more contemplative. The sculptures are modelled in bronze, but the bronze is dimpled and scratched giving it the quality of stone. Moving around the figures, sometimes they seems to lose their human shape all together and become more like small outcrops of rock, weathering along fissures which are really rolls of flesh.

Tai chi is partly based on the principle of ying and yang in which opposites are balanced. These sculptures succeed in coupling opposed elements of toppling/balance, dexterity/clumsiness, flesh/stone. The massive limbs seem like a force field around the imagined man or woman inside, a sort of protective shield established by the practice of tai chi.

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