Wallace Chan’s 50-year career detailed in art exhibition in China

Wallace Chan returns to his fine jewelry creations through an exhibition to be held in China of his bejeweled masterpieces from his 50-year career.

The exhibition “Wallace Chan: Half a Century” can be seen from July 3 to October 7 at the Shanghai East Museum. Featuring over 200 of his fine jewelry art pieces, it is the largest exhibition of his to date, which is quite a statement for the fine jewelry artist who has seen a number of major exhibitions of his in the last years.

The versatile artist currently has an exhibition of his large titanium sculptures in Venice. In September 2023, Christie’s London held an unprecedented exhibition of over 150 of his jewelery and sculptures titled “The Wheel of Time”. It was the fifth time Christie’s had organized an exhibition of Chan’s creations and was the first time Christie’s London had dedicated its entire gallery space to an artist.

The upcoming exhibition is also unprecedented, as it is the first time that creations by a living artist have been displayed at the Shanghai East Museum. It is also the first in a series of exhibitions organized by the museum titled “Inspired by the Past: Masters of Modern and Contemporary Art.”

Chu Xiaobo, director of the Shanghai Museum, says the exhibition series “highlights esteemed modern and contemporary artists from both domestic and international backgrounds, presenting classic works, pioneering curatorial and exhibition methods, interpreting humanistic values, and drawing wisdom and inspiration from traditional cultures. of East and West.”

Chan’s exhibition is designed to allow visitors to enter the creative world of the artist and innovator. Chan has used various gemstones and metals in his artistic practice for five decades, guided by an appreciation of nature and a universal interpretation of the spiritual world, through Zen Buddhism. His creations transcend the limits of craftsmanship and contemplation.

The exhibition is co-curated by the Shanghai Museum and Royal Danish Jewelry Curator, Nina Hald. More than 200 pieces will be on view in an unprecedented survey of Chan’s work as an artist and innovator over five decades, juxtaposed with prestigious loans from the collections of the Shanghai Museum, the Palace Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art , the Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The exhibition features three themes: “Engraving and Embodiment,” “Entangling and Enchanting,” and “Enlightening and Empowering.” Each theme is a gateway to higher levels of craftsmanship, creativity and consciousness.

The first track chronicles Chan’s humble beginnings and how he began his life with sensory perceptions and an apprenticeship as a gemstone carver in 1973. The first piece, “Eye of Time,” invites viewers to experience the world through his creative vision. His masterpiece “Still Life” has a cicada as its motif. He shows a cicada cradling an imperial jadeite, its back adorned with a brilliant lavender jadeite. The jadeite beads on the cicada’s body are meticulously inlaid using the artist’s “tenon and mortise joint technique.” The delicate cicada wings are made possible by Wallace Chan’s patented jadeite cutting and polishing technology from 2002.

The Chinese word for “cicada” shares a homophone with the Chinese word for “zen.” Two rubies with dove’s blood symbolize the “precocity of life,” indicating that worldly desires will be filtered by the sediment of wisdom. The rare jadeite embraced by the cicada is not only a wonder cultivated by nature but also by culture. Jade personifies the behavior of a noble person, while the embrace of the cicada embodies the search for the spiritual.

After spending a decade cutting gems, Chan developed an ambition to capture light itself, which gave rise to the fundamental idea of ​​his first major invention, the Wallace Cut (1987), an illusory cutting technique that transcends three-dimensional cutting in gravure. Since then, innovation has been an important component of Chan’s creative universe.

Having mastered carving, Chan’s creativity began to develop, which is defined in the second theme of the exhibition. At age 30, she began to adapt techniques, tools and knowledge from many fields to find solutions to the challenges he faced in the process of making his creations. He spent time experimenting with gemstone cutting; as well as the coloring, carving and sculpting of titanium; and the engineering of structures and jewelry pieces has added depth to Chan’s works.

Chan’s entire range of butterflies can be perceived as a series of variations on a theme. By reshaping the essence of the butterfly, he seeks to remind people of the greatness and mystery of the world.

The “Butterfly Nebula” is created from titanium, intricately carved with cloud patterns. Diamonds adorn the surface of the bodies, while certain parts feature carved amethyst, along with several free-cut pink sapphires, capturing the flow of light through the craftsmanship and creating illusions to reveal the intangible sound waves of the universe. The extended antennae not only express the beauty of physical and mental balance and evoke the fragrance of flowers that permeate the environment, but also symbolize resonance and empathy between all beings in the universe.

“Metamorfosis” aims to capture the wonderful colors of butterflies. Chan took a butterfly specimen and created the butterfly with the refractive nature of rock crystal, along with 16 pieces of emerald totaling 52.44 carats, diamonds, rubies, amethysts, citrines, blue topaz, rock crystals, mother of pearl , tourmalines and sapphires. , yellow diamonds, 18k white gold and titanium.

The motifs of the third theme of the exhibition, such as the dragon, phoenix, horse and tiger, reveal how Chan embraces and innovates the spirit of Chinese culture and people. As interpreted by Chan in his symbolic creations, they echo his spirituality and meditation, thus transcending the boundary between jewelry and art.

“Hera” is a peacock adorned with resplendent and magnificent feathers, a motif loved by people around the world throughout history. In ancient Greek mythology, the “eyes” of the peacock’s feathers originated from Argus, who served the goddess Hera. “The Return of the King” is created from white jade with lamb fat, diamonds and titanium. It not only represents the starry night patterns of Western modern painting, but also embodies the jade carving craftsmanship of China’s Warring States period, mixing ancient and modern, eastern and western, vividly and a legendary aura.