Chambers Fine Art Beijing is pleased to announce the opening on July 12 of The Heaven of Nine Levels by Wu Jian’an. Born in Beijing in 1980, Wu Jian’an graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing in 2005 where he studied in the Department of Folk Art. Like his distinguished professor, Lu Shengzhong, Wu’s fascination with folk art soon lead to the evolution of a personal style that stands in distinct contrast to prevailing modes of expression in contemporary Chinese art.
The fantastic persuasion of Wu Jian’an’s imagination was immediately apparent in Daydreams, his first solo exhibition at Chambers Fine Art New York in 2006. His disturbed state of mind during the SARS epidemic lead to a series of virtuoso paper-cuts that explored to the full the range of effects available in his chosen means of expression. The following year he turned to stainless steel in the monumental work Execute Chiyou by Lingchi, (a.k.a Lingchi Chiyou, Kill His Eighty-one Brothers – Our Chinese Civilization Was Then to Create a Brilliant History of Five Thousand Years).
For the current exhibition Wu Jian’an has delved deeper into the Chinese mythology that so fascinates him and has moved from paper-cut to carved and pierced ox-hide as his medium. In an extensive interview with Yan An , Wu has described his growing enthusiasm for "anything related to Old China", not the classical China of calligraphy and literati culture but paper-cuts, shadow puppets, the Dunhuang Grottoes, frescoes, carved stones etc. Fascinated with the literature of ghosts and spirits, Wu Jian’an has used the linear means of expression derived from these sources to create his The Heaven of Nine Levels in which nine kinds of animals including bird, human-faced bird, winged human, tiger, frog, giant salamander and fish express "logic and power". This tour-de-force is accompanied by two further works carved in ox-hide, Xingtian and Head of Chiyou.
In order to realize his ambitious plans Wu Jian’an worked with Wang Tianwen whom he first met when he was doing research on shadow puppets in 2004. A master of his craft, Wang Tianwen had been making shadow puppets for more than forty years and had gained a wealth of experience that enabled Wu Jian’an to meet the challenge of giving three-dimensional form to his fantastic visions.
As Christophe W. Mao has remarked, "Although China is getting ready for the Olympics and the face of Beijing is being transformed in readiness for the opening on August 8, it is reassuring to find that an artist such as Wu Jian’an still responds to aspects of Chinese culture that might seem to be on the verge of extinction. His The Heaven of Nine Levels and his homages to Xingtian and Chiyou are idiosyncratic and masterly visitations from a mythical past that is still with us. Traditional craft is used in the service of an imagination that finds connections between ancient China and the computer-generated fantasies of today."