On the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of one of the pivotal events in Chinese art history, the 1979 STARS EXHIBITION (星星美展), 10 Chancery Lane Gallery presents a celebration in 3-parts with 3 exhibitions by the main leaders and protagonists Wang Keping, Ma Desheng and Huang Rui throughout the year of 2019. With a special STARS Kabinett at ART BASEL Hong Kong dedicated to the art and ideas that highlight the event as a turning point for artists across China that opened the doors towards free artistic expression liberated from the confines of communist orthodoxy. The first exhibition at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery will feature sculptor Wang Keping who will premier his latest works of wood sculptures at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in an exhibition entitled STARS WILL FOREVER BE STARS by WANG KEPING and Art Basel HK showing recent works along with a rare glimpse of his controversial STARS EXHIBITION work SILENCE.
For sculptor Wang Keping the essence or life of any of his works lives within the wood itself. The ideas spark after long observation of the knots and branches to what lies within. He started to carve his first wood sculptures 40 years ago when he was a rambunctious youth in China fighting with his comrades for the right and freedom of showing the art of his time. Today, he is a master, a sage, a philosopher and all that he needs is in his garden with him. The main themes of his work repeat: Woman, Man, Couple, Mother and Child, Birds; however, with each passing year he becomes more an more adept to the essence of the material and what it has to offer him and we see the forms evolve and renew according to his mastery. In this exhibition Couple 2008, Maple wood, highlights the beastly forms that the natural elements of the wood with its knots and protrusions embodying the primal passion between the couple in embrace. Where Elles-Ailes 2011, Birch wood, playing on the French words Woman-Wings is a work that integrates the ideas of balance, a concept that Wang Keping uses to display forms within forms – three rounds within a rectangle create a perfect balance and symmetry – while the small slash on the side make the abstraction into a woman. La Femme Qui Regarde Derrière (Woman who is Looking Back) 2017, Cedar, is a work that Wang utilizes the various branches of the wood within the work to create the woman and, cleverly, with the natural knot suggesting an eye and her regard backwards, we feel the artist’s ironic humor, which is a prevalent thread throughout his work and career.
Wang Keping was born in China in 1949, the year of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Self taught, he started making wooden sculptures in 1978 and became one of the founders of China’s first contemporary art movements, The Stars (Xing Xing 星星) Group. His works were a voice of revolt within a China that was on the verge of transformation in the years following the end of the Cultural Revolution and the death of Chairman Mao Zedong. The first Stars Exhibition was an unauthorized exhibition of artists who hung their works on the gates of the National Art Museum of China. After two days the police confiscated the works and the Stars artists organized a march to demand artistic freedom. A year later, the same group of artists was invited to show inside the National Art Museum of China. Wang Keping’s works were some of the most boldly political among the group. His sculpture Silence showed a deafened and blinded man, an analogy of the times. His work Idol was perhaps the first artwork that made a parody of Chairman Mao by turning him into a Buddha figure. Artists Wang Keping along with Huang Rui and Ma Desheng were the key leaders of the Stars Group movement.
Wang Keping left for France in 1984 and continued his work turning away from political focus and concentrating more on simplified sculptures of both figurative and abstract themes. Inspired by the simplicity of the modernist Constantin Brancusi, the elegance of Chinese Han sculpture and the bruteness of African sculpture, Wang Keping for the last 40 years has honed a unique sculptural voice truly his own. At the heart of his work is the wood. He describes his sculptural process of a collaboration of what the wood has to give him and what he has to give to the wood.
Wang Keping is recognized internationally and has been collected and exhibited at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the M+ Uli Sigg Collection, Hong Kong; the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, among others.
10 Chancery Lane Gallery will present a special feature for Art Basel Hong Kong Kabinett section dedicated to the 40th Anniversary of the 1979 Stars Exhibition. Huang Rui, Ma Desheng and Wang Keping were three of the main leaders of China’s first non-conformist artists groups “The Stars” (Xing Xing星星), formed in 1979 during the post-Cultural Revolution. This group of young avant-garde artists challenged the status quo and were pivotal in initiating the debut of free art expressions in the Post-Mao era. Their works were a voice of the future within a China that was on the verge of transformation. Pulitzer prize winning photographer Liu Heung Shing, will show his documentary news photos from the Stars Exhibition era and the protests that followed. Rare and important early works by Huang Rui, Ma Desheng and Wang Keping will be shown displaying the significant moment of art during China’s opening.