Within a Magic Spell

Zhu Zhu, Tr. Denis Mair

After going through numerous births and miscarriages, Xiang Jing intends to conclude the stage of her work that concerns the “female body.” To engage in critiquing her work is like travelling to a nation of women that is about to declare independence. The scaffolding has yet to be removed, but a mood of festive observance is in the air.
For an artist to conclude a stage in her creative work usually means that her passion and energy toward the theme has found release, and she realizes that to continue would lead to nothing but self-replication of a certain few pieces. A better reason might be that her iconic pieces had already been produced, and the artist’s desire for expression had been gratified. If she ever resumes this theme sometime in the future, it would mean that broader understanding and experience will have shown her new possibilities of self-overcoming. Xiang Jing’s present achievements in sculpture give ample proof of her singular strength within a certain thematic range. The works that best represent the level she has reached are Your Body (2005) and Are A Hundred Playing You? Or Only One? (2007).
Viewed externally, these two sizeable pieces exceed the usual scale of her works. The former is the largest of her pieces that deal with a single human figure, and the latter is a tableau that nearly amounts to an engineering project. Of course these two pieces do not owe their importance to their unusual volume. Their size serves to demonstrate this artist’s acute instinct for proportion. That is, when dealing with a possibility that stretches the ordinary, she chooses a fitting scale for the sake of emphasis.
Along the thematic thread of female physicality, Your Body and Are A Hundred Playing You? Or Only One? are separated by three years. If we see the former as the full confirmation of this theme, then the latter is a summing up of the same theme. The former speaks with intuition, courage, and passion; the latter shows thoughtful intelligence and apt structural arrangement. More importantly, these two pieces correspond to two intertwined strains in Xiang Jing’s thinking, namely (to borrow two ready-made terms) “feminism” and “femininity.” My understanding of these two terms, both of which have to do with the female gender, is that “feminism” emphasizes political reality;