They rise like steel monsters out of the center of the Hong Kong Exchange Square Rotunda in Central. But these aren’t gimmicks for a new movie or a special FX person’s dream. The 18 pieces are instead the proud work of Beijing artist Ren Zhe, who slaves over each of his stainless steel and bronze sculptures for a minimum of six months at a time.
William Fong, a Hong Kong based lawyer, first came across Zhe’s work nearly seven years ago and always knew that the circular Rotunda would be the perfect place to showcase his elaborate sculptures. “It’s circular, which in Chinese culture, means a lot,” he says. “It’s harmony.”
Next he had to convince Hong Kong Land that this would be the perfect venue for Zhe’s first exhibition of this collection outside China. When they were shown miniatures in Hong Kong, they weren’t so sure. Once representatives saw the giant sculptures at Zhe’s studio, they were quickly convinced.
The 33 year old’s exhibit is called “Gang”, based on a Chinese character that has no English equivalent. The sentiment behind it though, is all about positivity. “He wants to convey the positive energy within oneself,” says Fong.
To make the sculptures, Zhe first sketches them out in his elaborate notebooks. Then, he creates clay and wax moulds before the steel or bronze goes over the top to provide the finishing touch. A perfectionist, Zhe won’t hesitate to destroy any of his creations in order to make them better. He also listens to the same song over and over again for days on end to get himself in the proper frame of mind for what he is creating.
The result is a collection of imposing, modern looking warriors that have their roots in ancient Chinese culture. “’White Feather’, for instance, comes from a Tang Dynasty poem,” says Fong. “It’s about a general from that era who was walking through the forest at night who saw a shadow. So he shot an arrow, and when he found it, there was an arrow embedded in a stone attached to the tip of a white tiger. The allegory is that when you face adversity, the power that you can express is beyond your imagination.”
At the entrance to the IFC lies one of the most stunning examples of Zhe’s work. There, a single warrior can be seen carrying a bull. “It’s about dictating your own fate,” says Fong.
Though there are no plans for the exhibition to be permanent, it’s stunning enough that it should be. So far, there also aren’t plans for a world tour, though one can imagine that Zhe’s work would be a success.
Check it out while you still can, for “Gang” shows that Ren Zhe’s fate is about to go sky high.
“Gang” is free for the public to see at the Hong Kong Exchange Square Rotunda thoughout the month.