Chinese artist Wallace Chan uses sculpture to explore the mystery of matter and form
Totem, the iconic Chinese jewellery artist's latest sculpture exhibition, is a must-see. And it makes its debut in Italy this autumn.
It's said that everyone should visit Venice once in their lifetime. And indeed, this romantic coalescence of tiny islands, canals and bridges has a lot to offer. But it's also jam-packed with tourists, relentlessly hectic and, right now, unbearably hot.
So if you are visiting the Italian city, planning a few quiet breaks from the main throng is a good idea. And the latest exhibition of work by Hong Kong artist Wallace Chan, at the Fondaco Marcello, is just the ticket.
Born in 1956, Wallace began as a gemstone carver in 1973 and gained worldwide recognition for pioneering titanium's unprecedented use in art. He was the first Chinese jewellery artist to exhibit at TEFAF Maastricht and Biennale des Antiquaires. And his works are in the permanent collections of the British Museum, the Beijing Capital Museum and the Ningbo Museum.
The title of his latest sculptural exhibition, Totem, refers to an esteemed ancestral spirit. It interconnects the philosophical aspects of Wallace's Buddhist faith, including his reverence for the natural world and the innate qualities of the materials he uses in his sculptural work.
"This exhibition is influenced by my personal journey of contemplation and curiosity about life, nature and the mysteries of the universe," says Wallace. "I'm interested in exploring the mystery of matter and form and understanding the distinctions between the imagined illusory space and real physical matter."
Curator James Putnam adds: "As its title suggests, this exhibition relates to the fundamental principle of the totemism that there's a shared spiritual relationship between humans and mother nature who must work together in order to sustain life. The calm, enigmatic face depicted in Chan's sculpture is a mystical spirit, a form of totem that expresses the transcendental state of absolute oneness."
The exhibition features an installation composed of multiple unassembled parts of Chan's 10-metre titanium sculpture (A Dialogue Between Materials and Time, Titans XIV), positioned across the floorspace of the Fondaco Marcello.
"The spectacle of Chan's installation does not belong to a singular form but is produced by the relationship between its multiple parts," explains James. "Once unassembled, the integrity of the sculpture as a unified form is removed, suggesting the fragility and imminent collapse of a previous order. It symbolises the social fragmentation and uncertainty experienced around the world today in global issues such as polarised politics and climate change."
By displacing the sculpture's fragmented pieces of the iron beam and carefully-modelled titanium heads across the floor, viewers are invited to approach the sculptural elements up close and from differing viewpoints, encouraging new perspectives on the art.
"The experience of walking amongst the deconstructed sculpture heightens awareness of the work's relationship to the space around it," adds James. "A diagram instructing how to install the sculpture as a whole is displayed within the exhibition, intimating a hope for reassembly, union and rebalance."
Totem runs until until 23 October at Fondaco Marcello, San Marco 3415, Calle del Traghetto o Ca' Garzoni, 30124 Venice, Italy. Alternatively, you can take a virtual tour.