The title of this exhibition, Panda Warriors, calls up immediate associations that the exhibits may have a certain element of “Chineseness” in them and that they may have something to do with the terra cotta soldiers of the Qin Dynasty. This raison d’etre is to the point but there is much more to it. San Francisco-based sculptor, Zhang Wanxin, indeed has a lot more to pass on to the viewers of his sculptures.
The word “Panda” may have been used to attract attention but the word “warriors” definitely is used to highlight an attitude to life as well as the determination to claim one’s right on a dignified piece of turf under one’s feet.
Trained in Luxun Institute of Fine Arts, Shenyang, China, Wanxin went on to continue his degree of masters of fine arts in the Academy of Art University of San Francisco in 1992. After graduation, he chose to stay in the United States and since then has been teaching in the university. From Jilin to Liaoning and then to San Francisco, Wanxin’s meandering route to the foreign land and his personal struggles to become a sculptor and an educator and to realize them all in his adopted home, in fact, are a road map of a “warrior”.
Encapsulated in his figures is one unyielding will as well as the extraordinary ease and superficial calm. These warriors seem to be looking intently at the upheavals of everyday life, though often with their real selves concealed behind a pair of sunglasses.
The details in their facial expressions, the cut scars on the bodies, the drip marks of the glazes together with the expressive execution of the torsos and armours…all these have demonstrated Wanxin’s fluency in the sculptor’s language and his skilful application of the medium. They, as a result, will assure the lasting enhancement of these warriors.