Contemporary Chinese sculptor Wu Ching Ju merges Chinese and Western culture to create powerful yet intrinsically delicate works. ‘She combines the rigidness and coldness of bronze with the gentleness and beauty of human nature in a perfect way’, comments Hua Liming. ‘The sculptures of Wu Ching Ju are another valuable exploration of the idea “to make the past serve the present and let western things serve China”.’ Hua Liming is a former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Wu Ching Ju
Chinese, b. 1961
Born in the urban township of Fonglin, in the Huatung Valley of eastern Taiwan, Wu Ching Ju learned at an early age of the ancient traditions of China. After secondary education she became particularly interested in the art of flower arranging, with its emphasis on simplicity, elegance and harmony.
After 16 years of village life that taught her love and respect for her ancestors and for all living things, Wu moved with her family to Taipei, Taiwan and studied design and oriental humanities. Soon after her marriage, she moved to the U.S. where she began to express herself through painting and calligraphy. During those years, Wu began to understand the difference between Eastern and Western aesthetics, and she decided to make a new kind of Chinese beauty - one that could be touched. ‘I use the simplest lines from Chinese paintings in my sculptures, allowing these lines to manifest in the bronzes,’ she explains.
In 1993, Wu moved to the Netherlands, where she studied Western techniques of painting, sculpting and bronze casting. Her first exhibitions in the West all sold out and in 1996 she became a full-time sculptor. Very early in her career in Europe, she was signed to Halcton Gallery, London. Wu’s works can be found in private homes and gardens on every continent.
In her ‘Mother and Child’ series of bronzes, Wu celebrates motherhood, focusing also on what it is like to be an orphan. Herself far from home, she felt impelled to take back to her own people and culture what she had learned, to create a bridge of communication between East and West.
Another public installation in Shanghai, the Fountain of Blessings, has become the most popular sculpture of the city since it’s unveiling in 2008. This sculpture, in many ways, merges Oriental tradition with Western styling and techniques and Wu’s talent of infusing emotions in rigid materials.
Wu has held over 40 exhibitions in Europe and Asia. Her sculptures sensuously abstract the Western figurative dimension from the traditional form, while reaching new levels of expression. ‘Emotions play an important part in my work’, she says. ‘Serenity, modesty, sadness, tranquillity and joy feature prominently.’ Her subjects reflect her passion for Chinese history, legend and religion, ranging from the austere monk and his followers to powerful members of the imperial household. Quintessentially Eastern in her approach, she explains, ‘I become entirely engrossed in my subject … I shut out the outside world which, in oriental philosophy, is extremely important. Only when you can completely concentrate are you at peace with yourself.’
There are several significant collections of Wu’s work across the world, including those established in the United Kingdom, continental Europe, the Middle East and East Asia. Eight monumental and life-size works of hers are on permanent display in museums in China.
Back in the land of her ancestors, Wu created Pro Terra et Natura (2011), a 15 metre high installation, for the Lu Jia Zui Central Park in the financial district of Shanghai. Pro Terra et Natura features two mythical figures with wings representing guardians of the earth and environment; the installation of this sculpture was accompanied by a major exhibition in Shanghai and Beijing in 2011.
Since 2012, Wu Ching Ju has devoted herself to the creation of works that mirror a path to free oneself from all that is distracting in one’s life. Inspired by Zen philosophy, Wu Ching Ju endeavors to capture the enlightenment and emotional stages of the path in search for the true self.