“GANG” (罡) – The Awakened Warrior, an exhibition presented by BAC in Exchange Square, Hongkong Land, featured an exclusive collection of 18 sculptures by the contemporary Chinese artist, Ren Zhe (任哲). The artist distinguishes himself in his art, by employing the spirit of heroism from ancient warriors as a vehicle to infuse his fascination and respect for traditional Chinese culture into the spiritually deprived contemporary culture.
For the very first time, Ren Zhe’s entire collection of 18 masterpieces, including six new figures: Lei (雷), Above the Clouds (雲端), Sui Zhen (歲震), Ying Li (熒離), Tai Dui (太兌) and Chen Kan (辰坎), will be showcased in Hong Kong for public appreciation. The figures, made of bronze and stainless steel, illustrate the relationship between positive internal energy and the process of mediation, self-realisation and harmonisation amongst humans and nature.
The younger generation of Hong Kong, including the curator, is busy each day strutting and fretting on the stage that is this great city. Working hard to earn a living, save up for a home, pursue a successful career, start a family, all with the hope of one day enjoying relative tranquility in one’s remaining years.
The sculptor Ren Zhe is from this same generation, born post 1980 in Beijing. He has in his years indulged in the arts and cultures of generations past and present in their varied forms, evident in his passionate pursuit of the Chinese classics, from ancient zither, chess, calligraphy, painting and poetry to Chinese numerology and astrology, as well as in his love of films and pop music that have captured the attention of this generation across the world. Ren Zhe has found a vantage point that is uniquely his own and is enjoying life to the fullest.
My first encounter with Ren Zhe’s work was ten years ago. It was a warrior on horseback, waving a whip – a powerful, but refined sculpture with a refreshingly contemporary air. Back then, I was in my twenties. Although the work had an immediate and memorable visual impact on me, I am not sure I then fully appreciated the spirit cast within it.
Later on, I got to know Ren Zhe. I watched him practice calligraphy, listened to him musing about art, and conversed with him about life in its various facets. And I began to see the spirit dwelling within his sculptures in its many varied dimensions.
In Ren Zhe’s sculpture, there is a unifying theme, which can perhaps be encapsulated in eight words from I Ching (or Classic of Changes): “厚德載物，自強不息” These eight characters convey an ageless aspiration, penned generations past, to strive for a virtue that embraces the world and to ceaselessly enrich oneself.
In Utmost Wonder, we see a spirit that strives for unity between man and the heavens in contemplation. In Above the Clouds, we see a spirit that soars to transcend one’s self through self-confrontation. In Noble Tranquility, we see a spirit that composes a melody in silent harmony. All these sculptures, in the drama of their stillness and their motions, have cast within them Ren Zhe’s intensely humanistic aspirations.
This exhibition is entitled “罡” (pronounced “G'ang”). This Chinese character has no English equivalent and comprises the Chinese character for the number “four” and the Chinese character for the word “positive”. Its prigins are associated with Chinese astrology and Taoism. “罡” represents the idea, or the aspiration, of an all-encompassing positivity, which from Ren Zhe’s vantage point could only be achieved from within, starting with one’s self. There is a warrior within us, one which conquers, rather than is conquered by, the world. And I hope you will partake in the spirit of Ren Zhe’s sculptures in this exhibition, as it beckons us to our awakening.
I would like to thank Hongkong Land for their tremendous support of Ren Zhe. We are particularly grateful for the opportunity to exhibit Above the Clouds in the Open Plaza at Exchange Square, which is truly a uniquely befitting location for this work. Hongkong Land have a longstanding tradition of supporting artand cultural development and their permanent collection includes masterpieces by Salvador Dali, Henry Moore and other timeless masters. We applaud Hongkong Land’s vision and commitment in their support of the arts in this great city.
As we pause from our strutting and fretting through the busyness of Central Hong Kong, I hope that this exhibition will inspire each of us to our awakening.