Metal Shadows of Rock

You may have seen from my Facebook status that I am lucky enough to be blogging from the British Museum today! 

This is such a wonderfully rich and inspiring atmosphere, but with so many amazing objects it can be overwhelming. So today I set myself a task to find and learn about just one single object in depth to share with you.

Squeak! Carved netsuke decoration at The British Museum.

Squeak! Carved netsuke decoration at The British Museum.

 

Finding myself in the Chinese gallery, my attention was immediately drawn to a table of objects you could handle along with a friendly guide to explain their provenance. Amongst them a beautiful little netsuke mouse was curled into a shy ball and an ancient jade pendant was worn smooth in a shape of a fish, still perfect after thousands of years. But these were not the objects for my mission for today. I was surrounded by so many cabinets of intricate, exquisite treasures it took the sight of something completely different to made me stop in my tracks. It was a large shiny silver object, appearing amidst the antiquities as if it had fallen straight from another world and into the museum. But there was no visible hole in the roof or debris where this alien object had crash landed. And here it was this piece of sci-fi, presented carefully on a traditionally carved wooden plinth. This was a sculpture by the artist Zhan Wang.

Artificial Rock, number 82 by Zhan Wang. Polished stainless steel

Artificial Rock, number 82 by Zhan Wang. Polished stainless steel

 

"In the past, collectors displayed craggy rocks on their desks as objects of aesthetic appreciation. The rocks also allude to the mystic of mountains that were thought to be dwellings for men of pure thought."

Another steel sculpture by Zhan Wang - the artist also calls them "floating stones" .

Another steel sculpture by Zhan Wang - the artist also calls them "floating stones" .

 

Chinese scholars collected and revered unique rocks with beautiful shapes created through natural erosion. By displaying them in their working surroundings for their aesthetic value they also wished to be reminded of the mysticism of the mountains where men of "pure thought" were supposed to dwell. Their sculptural forms displaying positive and negative space were so admired that artisans tried to reproduce copies of these rocks in various materials, including jade, glass, and ceramic.

Zhan Wang forms his sculptures by moulding sheets of stainless steel around real rock formations. 

The artist says; "The material’s glittering surface, ostentatious glamour, and illusory appearance make it an ideal medium to convey new dreams.''

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Zhan has also created his own personal universe by recording the sound made by exploding a giant boulder. Read more here

Zhan Wang's work often uses the use of simplistic object that serve a purpose of telling a complex idea. By using the industrial material stainless steel Zhan perfectly captures the organic shape of the original scholars rocks he forms his pieces around but with it's eerily perfect finish, too shiny for nature it's purpose is still that of internal as well as external reflection.