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Sui Jianguo's Solo Exhibition at Pace Gallery, Hong Kong

  by Valencia Tong
'Jungle #A' (2017) by Sui Jianguo. Image courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery

Known for his Mao jacket and dinosaur sculptures, leading Chinese contemporary sculptor Sui Jianguo returns to Hong Kong with a series of sculptures and works on paper.

Early sculptural works from the artist's 'Earthly Forces' (1992-1994) series are placed on the floor of the gallery, surrounded by dark abstract paintings on paper created this year. These sculptures, made from stone and welding steel, are juxtaposed against gestural works hung on the stark white walls of the gallery.

'Sui Jianguo' solo exhibition at Pace Gallery, Hong Kong
Image courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery

Beijing-based Chinese artist Sui Jianguo was born in Qingdao, Shandong Province, in 1956. Following his graduation from the Fine Arts Department of the Shandong University of Arts in 1984, he received his MFA from the Sculpture Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in 1989. He has worked as a professor and dean of the Sculpture Department of his alma mater.

His artistic career spans over almost four decades and he is hailed as a "pioneer venturing to the farthest reaches of Chinese sculpture." Early works of Sui Jianguo are in realist style. Gradually, he became known for his 'Made in China' series, featuring dinosaur-shaped sculptures. The series explores the phenomenon of mass-production and consumerism in contemporary Chinese society, as well as the role of the country in the export industry. Another series he is renowned for is his 'Legacy Mantle' series, showcasing Mao jacket-shaped sculptures.

Sui Jianguo has been called the "earliest and boldest conceptual sculptor in China." He has taken part in a number of international solo and group exhibitions, including at the Venice Biennale in 2017, MOCA Singapore, Museum Beelden aan Zee in Netherlands, Shanghai World Expo Boulevard Sculpture Exhibition, Today Art Museum in Beijing, Taipei MOCA and Metropolitan Museum of Manila in the Philippines, among others.

'Sui Jianguo' solo exhibition at Pace Gallery, Hong Kong
Image courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery

In the solo exhibition in Pace Gallery, however, visitors are simultaneously introduced to his early conceptual works in the 1990s and his recent abstract metaphysical paintings done in 2017. Instead of showcasing works that deal with the socio-political issues of the rapid modernisation of contemporary China, the show shifts the focus to the materiality of the artist's works.

Sui Jianguo's early sculptures embody inner complex perceptions through simple materials such as stone and steel. Meanwhile, in recent years, his approach to sculpture becomes more introspective. His artistic expression moves away from the materiality of his work, and the artist begins to adopt a metaphysical tone as seen in his paintings on paper. 

'Earthly Force #21' (1992-1994) by Sui Jianguo
Image courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery

Sui Jianguo's paintings in this exhibition are completed in an extremely short time. He deliberately diminishes the artist's control involved in the process to make a statement about the conceptual and existential qualities of such works. The works pose a question of whether they are independent entities, or that they are tied to the creative outcome of the artist.

Don't miss this show at Pace Gallery, Hong Kong -- it is the artist's first return to Hong Kong in nine years!

'Summer Night #1' (2017) by Sui Jianguo
Image courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery


'Sui Jianguo' is at Pace Gallery, Hong Kong, from 7th July till 24th August. More details can be found here.