By Tian Qing
It seems cliché to call sculpture “condensed music” and music “flowing sculpture”. For me, any art form being sculpture or music only ascends to the zenith of art with a philosophical sense. Surely, highly abstract and theoretical philosophy differs greatly from direct and emotional art since they represent two different wisdom expressions of the cognitive world and the expressive world. That, however, enabled art and philosophy to take contrasts and transcend themselves at a higher level.

Liu Ruowang’s sculptures are philosophical ones.

I happed to see those wolves at 798 Art District, a little square for the first time while I was looking for an exhibition hall to attend a friend’s opening ceremony.

Those sculptures were named Wolves are Coming, also the name for a widely popular story on children’s honesty, then, however, I didn’t think of that story when I suddenly run into them. I was shocked, as if actually encountering those wolves on a wasteland and I still remember those feelings may be out of its unexpectedness.

Besides mass and dynamics, shocking art works demonstrate unexpected creations and measures. So Wolves are Coming does. These wild as well as sacred animals were “invited” there to waken the fear from the human’s pre-consciousness, meanwhile laugh at the human species—the winner of the “survival contest” over the past thousands of years. Also, people are forced to re-consider what on earth does the victory mean if this species, human’s bitter enemy, disappear from earth? The evolution theory believes killing inside or beyond species is necessary for the survival of individual and species. Does that mean life’s ultimate goal is to eradicate other lives to save ours?

I shivered confronting those wolves. The fear was as real as the feelings experienced by some ancestor of mine on a wasteland thousands of years ago. However, my confusions are heavier and harder to solve compared to their choice between “running away” and “fighting for life”. I can’t help worrying about the fate and future of human species given now wolf is basically vanished from our modern life, but more in story, legend or zoo. The world is dominated by human, called “the wisest of all creatures” by ourselves. We have been recklessly taking advantage of the resources on the planet, expanding the territory of “culture” as well as eradicating all “human enemies” for granted to satisfy our greedy desire and even beyond real necessities. Today, we are exposed to a more dangerous environment than our ancestors who run into wolves on a wasteland confronting the rapidly depleting natural resources, degrading environment and infinite greedy desires and ambitions. The warrior fighting the wolves seems incompetent and negligible. His solitude is more prominent than his bravery. Human and wolf share the same heroic and pathetic fortunes under the same circumstance. In Chinese, wolves represent brutality and cruelty. People injected their hatred into phrases like “wolfish ambition” and “be as cruel as a wolf”. However, the Buddhism believes“you create your own world”. Greed is far scarier than “coming wolves”.

Liu’s other works showcase the same “array”manner, all in large scale, shocking and empowering viewers to perceive philosophically. There seems to be a clear train of thought in his series as Red East、Martial Arts, Heaven Soldiers, Guard of Honor with Cars and Horses series, Original Sin. If we say thoughts were sparked on individual and group, the general public and hero, history and reality and singing and gunshots triggered by “revolution” from the singing strong Shaanxi man in Red East series, then further thoughts were provoked on human to human, heart and things, literature and martial arts, right and wrong, peace and violence, mission and responsibility, victory and failure, grassroots and elites by the various people and solider from People, Martial Arts, Guard of Honor with Cars and Horses series.

Liu’s works didn’t stop at the form and perceptual level, and were not restrained by personal life inquiry. He must have felt the weakness and helplessness when he finally found that the folks and warriors in northern Shaanxi created with his full passion wasted their power and loyalty just like those “terracotta warriors”buried underground for 2,000 years. People, a group concept embodied limitless hope, ultimate power, zenith of morality and even born legality of all politics, have been repeatedly created by sculptors with mud, bronze, pig iron, glass fiber reinforced plastics and his heavy, childish and even dumb group sculptures. Indeed, his works on “people” seem to be echoing with the chant of the underground “tomb figure” . The idealists would undoubted feel disappointed and helpless after highly regarded “people” being returned to “the general public”.

So, he turned his attention from underground to heaven. Heaven Soldiersseries, the sculptor tried to get rid of the shadows of “tomb figure”, bandage of “human” and the helplessness of “groups”. The super powered “heaven soldiers” wearing ancient armor, hammering the missile, chopping the aircraft carrier are fighting one by one against modern weapons with seemingly original cold weapon, no longer charging in group. From this set of works, we perceived the sculptor’s splendid and interesting imagination, his soul once lost in legendary stories and Kung fu novels as a child as well as his ideal to counter modern civilization with traditional cultures. Still, we don’t know whether that transition from “people” to “god” give him new hopes or deeper sense of helplessness.

Finally, the Original Sin series were born. Giant apes standing on the vast land, as if they are telling a sad story on the distant horizon. Upon seeing them, I thought of the lines from Wronged Dou’e Shaking Heaven and Earth cried out by Dou’e.

Finally, the Original Sin series were born. Giant apes standing on the vast land, as if they are telling a sad story on the distant horizon. Upon seeing them, I thought of the lines from Wronged Dou’e Shaking Heaven and Earth cried out by Dou’e.
Cries shaking heaven and earth
Suddenly, my soul was into hell
How can I not blame the heaven and earth…”

The shocking, shivering and thought-provoking effects are well transferred to viewers through the giant apes’ huge bodies and unspeakable expressions. Cries from these animals mixed with pains and sufferings, cries and silence, strength and weakness put ancient philosophical propositions before us: “Where did we come from? Where are we going?” and “Who are you? Who am I?”

I once again thought of those scary wolves and the warrior confronting them alone before these giant apes. From this lonely “man”, the sculptor created common man(The East is Red, People), soldier (Martial Arts ), noble man(Lofty Mountains and Flowing Water), saint(Lofty Mountains and Flowing Water), half man and half god(Heaven Soldiers, God of War)and finally came to beasts(Original Sin). The artist drew a circle over the past couple of years with his series works. This circle, like the well known Taiji Diagram, represented the beauty and essence of Chinese ancient philosophy in a highly abstract and condensed way. While being sarcastic about the evolution from “ape to human”, he also revealed thought trains painstakingly sought by human beings with this trail from “human to ape”. If that lonely warrior facing the wolves reflected the plight confronting the whole human species, cold weapon’s triumph over “heaven soldiers’” with missile and aircraft carrier meant disappointment of “people”, then these apes clearly symbolized the artist’s cries in desperation.
The sculptor arranged those apes’ position in his usual ways. These are monsters provided people with infinite possibilities and dangers. We can’t hear their silent cries, and have no idea whether they are “pleading on others’ behalf” or “enforcing justice on behalf of heaven”. What’s more, we don’t know this “from human to ape” a random creating subject or a well thought one. But I’m sure that the biological theories can’t solve the basic problems human face. As “science” wins over the most ever believers on earth rather than any religion, “theory of revolution” cultivates “scientists” developing more and more genetically modified foods and wide-spreading fertilizers, pesticide, antibiotics, vitamins, dead pigs floating in river and heavily smoky Beijing, “the wisest of all creatures” are facing unprecedented dangers and challenges, meanwhile, the “hard truth” of “development” have met numerous complicated “soft resistance”. Though Mayan’s prediction was proved wrong, facing the dried up land and river and more frequent bad weather and natural disasters, people still have to consider whether our behavior has betrayed the “rule of heaven” and are starting to subject to nature’s punishment.

I do hope Darwin’s theory is right—when people came to their doom’s day, I wish the apes could “evolve” again and start another circle.

Human! Oh, human!

March 31, 2013