Published on May 28th, 2015 | by Rosalina0
Contemporary Chinese Art: Wang Ruilin’s Monumental Sculptures
The large-scale taxonomic sculptures of the young artist Wang Ruilin of Beijing fuse a remarkable facility with materials, transformed motifs from Chinese heritage, a reverence for the natural world and an unexpected element of the Surreal and humorous. Each of the projects involve intense technical undertakings, Ruilin first makes a small model from clay which is then enlarged, plaster molds are cast, a fiber reinforced plastic model is made, cast wax molds are created from the model, and the work is cast into bronze. The final step is the painting of the sculpture.
In his work, Ruilin strives for the depiction of an idealized world, reflecting the spirituality of the nature and the animals that exist within it. Center to his thematics are issues such as exploitation of natural resources, and the undeniable but sometimes hidden character of nature. Seeking a sense of peace and alliance with nature, the artist says: “Man’s greatness lies in his perception of his own smallness. To find conformity to nature is my attitude towards life.”
Purity of intent, and commune with nature is not always the central theme, there are touches of irony and humor in Ruilin’s work. For example, Ruilin’s HIDE-SEEK series includes the sculpture of the Monkey King (2011). Sun Wukong or monkey king is a popular figure in Chinese culture and something of a cult figure in the world of movies and graphic novels. The Monkey King is a central character in the famous 16th century Chinese novel Journey to the West, which takes place in 7th century AD and tells of a monk’s search for Buddhist scriptures with his rascal of a partner the Monkey King, fighting Buddha master. Ruilin’s sardonic and masterful work shows a warrior whose armor is composed of flayed monkey heads. The king is in solemn contemplation, his spear across his knees. He is the picture of meditation and an impression of the power of the natural world, the hidden prowess of all animals and the restraint of Buddhism, and yet there is a sense of irony and mischievousness.
Much of Ruilin’s oeuvre depicts large-scale animals punctuated with such surprising and surreal elements, including Dreams, a fanciful series of animal sculptures including yaks, deer, birds, crocodiles, and rhinos; each sculpture has its own topographic world seemingly carved out of its back. The most captivating of this series are whales, and in ancient Chinese mythology, a whale called Yu-kiang with human hands and feet ruled the ocean, and turned into a huge bird when angry, stirring the sea waters into stormy peaks. Ark No.1 (2012) cast copper and pigment, features a whale with its spine hollowed out to reveal a landscape of trees, a metaphor for the fecundity and elemental power of nature. The dissection of the whale also points to the whaling industry, and its associated brutality and the landscape is a lush portrait of nature, perhaps reflecting the devastation of over farming or deforestation. Ark No. 3 (2012) is a luminous blue whale with a recess of its back, an artic looking seascape with icebergs, suggesting the cyclical and elemental weather cycle and climates found on earth. In this body of work we see echoes of classical Chinese painting including the depiction of botanical color, and as well as Ruilin’s characteristic concern for environmental preservation.
While Ruilin only recently graduated from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (2010), the sensibility and ambitious scale of his work may be compared to other artists who engage in similar use of allegory in large-scale projects, including Peter Sis, Gabriel Orozco, Matthew Barney, and Brian Jugend. The unique success of Ruilin’s work is a result of significant technical prowess, fluency in pairing traditions, and an almost scientific rendering with Surreal verisitic elements and as such places him along side such accomplished contemporaries.
Dreams – Ark No.1 / 逐梦记· 方舟 (2012)
Image courtesy of the artist, Beijing. Photographer Zou Shengwu.
RJH Berland, New York