Ju Ming and the Expression of His Tai Chi Sculptures
Figure 1: Lot 444 Ju Ming (Taiwan, b. 1938) bronze figure from the artist's Tai Chi series, 1986, from Oakridge Auction Gallery's Around the World in 80+ Lots auction, October 18, 2019.
This October Around the World in 80+ Lots auction features not one but two diminutive copies of monumental works by two well-known artists (the copies produced by the artists themselves). Where the organic, spear-headed form of Jacques Lipchitz’s Study for Peace on Earth pushes the energy of the statue upward and toward a more positive hope for future human interactions, the compact, boxy form of the Tai Chi sculpture by the Taiwanese artist Ju Ming embodies the often difficult to comprehend juxtaposition within the martial art of stillness and motion, containing bundles of potential energy within its jagged, square cut torso and floating arms while at the same time demonstrating the Tai Chi principles of rootedness and softness.
Heavy but floating, rooted but empty footed – this little statue is full of contradictions and philosophical tensions that would belie its size. The jagged edges of the figure’s limbs, and its abstracted, heavy body, lend the bronze a sense of organic matter that reflects the artist’s initial training as a woodcarver. With its arms raised just to shoulder height and the flat of the back foot raised, the statue appears to demonstrate a transition from one martial arts posture to another, sweeping the arms to their new guard or strike position while emptying the weight from the back foot and thus creating a moment full of potential.
Figure 2: Lot 444, Ju Ming (Taiwan, b. 1938) bronze figure from the artist's Tai Chi series, 1986.
Figure 3: Detail of Lot 444, Ju Ming (Taiwan, b. 1938) bronze figure from the artist's Tai Chi series, 1986, with edition and artist signature on underside of right foot.
A Sotheby’s press release on the of the sale of Johnson Chang Tsong-Zung’s extensive collection of Ju Ming sculptures in Hong Kong, in 2015, describes how “Ju Ming’s sculptures embody the aesthetics of martial arts through a process of unceasing self-transcendence,” successfully transforming “the dynamic state of Kung Fu into static imagery.” While similar in posture to the Taichi Series: Thrust, 1995 statue sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Modern Asian Art Autumn Sale 2015, the figure in our sale exhibits less outward thrusting motion and a greater sense of internal stillness, floating its arms at the precipice of a push or retreating motion.
Captured in media res between the movements of the Tai Chi form, the statue also balances between two worlds in the sense of its provenance. The miniature is mounted to a wooden base with a dedication plaque to former Lt. Governor of Delaware, Dr. Shien Biau Woo, from the Mayor of Kahsiung in Taiwan, Su Nan-Cheng; Dr. Woo, from whose collection the statue comes, was during his tenure the highest ranking American politician of Asian-American descent. Ju Ming’s small bronze statue here expresses the brimming potential found not only between movements, but more importantly in the gestures between heads of nations and the growing together of cultures.
“Sotheby’s Hong Kong Modern Asian Art Autumn Sales 2015 Presents Embodying The Dao of Martial Arts – Important Sculptures by Ju Ming from the Collection of Johnson Chang Tsong-Zung,” Hong Kong Public Exhibition: 2-4 October, Auction: 4 October. Press Release dated September 2015. Accessed August 15, 2019. https://www.justcollecting.com/art/ju-mings-martial-arts-sculptures-set-for-sothebys-auction
“Ju Ming - Biography.” Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery. Accessed August 15, 2019. https://www.kwaifunghin.com/artists/33-ju-ming/overview/
“Ju Ming Living World Series Sculpture Exhibition.” 18th of July – 15th of August, 2010. Ipreciation.com. Accessed August 15, 2019. http://www.ipreciation.com/ju-ming-living-world-series-sculpture-exhibition/
“Ju Ming.” Roberta English Contemporary Asian Arts. Accessed August 15, 2019. http://robertaenglish.com/collections/ju-ming/
“Juming Museum – About the Museum.” Sotheby’s. Accessed August 17, 2019. https://www.sothebys.com/en/museums/juming-museum
 “Sotheby’s Hong Kong Modern Asian Art Autumn Sales 2015 Presents Embodying The Dao of Martial Arts – Important Sculptures by Ju Ming from the Collection of Johnson Chang Tsong-Zung,” Hong Kong Public Exhibition: 2-4 October, Auction: 4 October. Press Release dated September 2015. Accessed August 15, 2019: 2.
About the Author
Katharina Biermann joined Oakridge Auction Gallery in the beginning of 2019, having completed her Master of Letters at the University of Glasgow in the History of Art with a specialization in Dress and Textile Histories. Ms. Biermann developed hands-on expertise of European arts and culture while interning in internationally renowned institutions including the National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY. She remains particularly interested in medieval and 19th-20th century visual and material culture.