Galerie Nathalie Obadia is delighted to present Chinese artist Wang Keping's work, at its rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré location for the first time. He had previously been the subject of two solo exhibitions, in Paris and Brussels, in 2018.
Concurrently, Flammarion editions will publish an important monograph about Wang Keping. In this volume, curator Virginie Perdrisot-Cassan and artist Ai Weiwei retrace the artistic journey of an artist who was, in 1979, a founding member of the "Stars" movement, before becoming the author of a body of work that is considered today to be a major contribution to contemporary sculpture.
Metamorphoses, Wang Keping's site-specific exhibition, unveils the artist's most recent body of work: a group of eight majestic, fire-patinated cypress-wood sculptures. This never-before-seen corpus is the product of three years of work, marking a creative renewal in the life of the 73-year-old sculptor, since moving to his Vendée studio in the spring of 2019.
Located between the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean and the national forest of Longeville, an old naval warehouse has been transformed into a creative hearth, allowing Wang Keping to work on a new scale and to carve his sculptures out of very large logs - century-old cypress and oak trees - in a hand-to-hand struggle, where human manipulation is measured up against the power of nature.
A product of this frontality, Cybèle à la robe, placed in the center of the gallery, offers us the metamorphosis of a tortuous tree that sets itself in motion in order to become a grandiose feminine body. Walking around it, we discover the different facets of this imposing effigy, sculpted in the round, revealing a face's expressiveness, a silhouette's determination, the grace of a chignon, the elegance of a kimono. The woman reveals the sculptor's virtuosity, his ability to transform a tree's crevices, remnants of shoots and branches, into sumptuous details evoking the draped peploses of ancient sculpture. Next to it, the Femme-Cyclope stares at us with its single, mirror-glossy eye, emitting an identical telluric presence.
At the back of the gallery, against a white wall, Si près deux cents ans, depicts the lithe hermaphrodite body of two lovers who have fused with each other, the rich organic material of the centenary cypress fleshing out the embrace of the woman and man, who seems to disappear within the breast of his lover. In this display of the perennity of love, the couple generates a diffuse emotion.
Sculpted in high relief, Léda et le Cygne proposes another embrace. The artist's predilection for birds is present here in the form of a graceful swan, which evokes Jupiter transforming in order to be with his mistress. As in Ovid's Metamorphoses, the alluringly writhing, long-necked animal exudes eroticism. The artist, however, remains in the realm of evocation with this poetic vision that shows us, somewhat loosely, the metamorphosis of the tree into swan then of the swan into man.
A nurturing woman, the noble Pomone, whose name pays homage to Maillol, resembles a goddess of seasons. With her apple as headdress, she conjures up the fertility of nature, while, on either side of the gallery, L'Origine du monde, Maternité and Femme Ping, with their tall, totem-like silhouettes, illustrate the more primitive dimension of Wang Keping's work, his ceaselessly renewed quest for simplicity and purity.
"Wang Keping's sculptures are intimately linked to his own body and his instinct. His inspiration is unrelated to his education," indicates Ai Weiwei in the preface of the new Wang Keping monograph, published by Flammarion . "He uses the natural and original form of primitive materials to create an oeuvre that defies classification, that expresses his subconscious under an apparent resemblance, and that gives free rein to his indelible erotic imagination. The brutality of his works is evident. In the domain of sculpture-carving, sculptors that hold a candle to Wang Keping are few and far between. His work is integral and autonomous. He has created his own system."
The ultimate testimony of this is the gallery of powerful women created by the sculptor, who has reached artistic maturity and has been invited to exhibit in the gardens of the Musée Rodin (spring 2022) and at the Musée Guimet (Carte Blanche, fall-winter 2022-2023).
1 BUFFARD, Anne-Laure, PERDRISOT-CASSAN, Virginie et WANG, Aline, Wang Keping, Paris, Flammarion, 2021.