Chan's gems put on a sparkling display

【Top News】Time:2024-07-05      Source:CHINA DAILY      Views:27

Wallace Chan elaborates on his artwork at the Shanghai Museum East's ongoing exhibition featuring his 200 pieces of fine jewelery. GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY

The Shanghai Museum East is currently presenting the first solo exhibition for a living artist. Wallace Chan: Half a Century, ongoing from Wednesday to Oct 7, includes more than 200 pieces created by the Hong Kong-raised Chinese jewelry designer, juxtaposed against artifacts from the collections of a number of prestigious institutions.

The Shanghai Museum has a focus not just on ancient art, but also on modern and contemporary art, according to its director, Chu Xiaobo. It has begun a new exhibition series, Drawing Inspiration from the Past: Masters of Modern and Contemporary Art, that seeks to highlight modern and contemporary artists from both the domestic and international arenas.

"Ultimately, the goal is for us to explore the unknown, challenge ourselves and embrace the future," Chu said at the opening.

The featured artist in the inaugural exhibition was born in Fuzhou, Fujian province, in 1956, and began to work as a gemstone carver in 1973 at the age of 16.

  A view of the exhibition, Wallace Chan: Half a Century. GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY

He is now one of the most prestigious jewelry artists in the world, recognized for numerous innovations in the processing of gemstones and other materials, and his work can be found in the permanent collection of the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Beijing's Capital Museum, and the Shanghai Museum.

Known as "the formidable Chinese" by European jewelers, Chu says that Chan has used a variety of gemstones and metals over the course of the last five decades, guided by his profound appreciation for nature.

The exhibition is organized in three sections, and includes jewelry and other objects lent from the collections of institutions such as the Shanghai Museum, the Palace Museum in Beijing, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim in Germany, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The first section Engraving and Embodying focuses on Chan's scientific approach and lifelong dedication to learning. "His pursuit of mastering gem carving and his pioneering work on the fourfold symmetry reflection effect, culminating in The Wallace Cut (way of processing gems Chan created), epitomizes his approach," Raquel Alonso-Perez, curator of the Mineralogical and Geological Museum at Harvard University, writes in her introduction to the exhibition.

The second section, Entangling and Enchanting, and the third section Enlightening and Empowering, demonstrate "the metamorphosis of raw gemstones into wearable works of art through mastery of the elements," Alonso-Perez writes.

From left: Three pieces by Chan: butterfly brooch, necklace and pendant in shape of a pea pod. GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY

The highlight of the exhibition is a transformable bangle made of diamonds, jade and titanium, called Return of the King, which has been donated to the permanent collection of the Shanghai Museum.

While the circles and sparkles on the bangle are inspired by van Gogh's The Starry Night, the white jade carving underneath is a motif from the Warring States Period, Chan explained to guests during a preview of the show on Tuesday.

"I hope that many years later, people will still come to see the object at the Shanghai Museum," Chan says.

"I didn't have much education or artistic training, but through working hard over 50 years, I have managed to create something, and communicate with others through my work.

"I hope my creations outlive me, and may inspire others to create, too. I have chosen to work with materials that are close to eternal, such as titanium and gemstones. I hope to turn them into things that can last long, and be passed down through the generations," he says.

"We live with Chinese civilization, which spans five millennia, and I hope we can leave something behind us too, when we leave this world," he adds.