Well-known by her bronze sculptures, Jiang Shuo explores a wide range of themes, from her earlier folk-like works which portray blissful childhood memories, to her now iconic “Red Guard” series composed of anonymous soldiers cast in the ancient lost wax technique. The soldiers carry items associated with the Cultural Revolution, such as a red flag or the “Little Red Book” (Quotations from Chairman Mao), thus providing a political undertone to her sculptures.
The Red Guards, while consistent with her simplistic folk art style, reflect her personal experience as a Red Guard in her youth, as well as the irony of the situation within the contemporary Chinese society, which she observes from abroad. The sculptures are featureless save for a wide-opened mouth, which is reminiscent of the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution who mindlessly spouted slogans and slanders as a result of political indoctrination. Jiang Shuo notes how China has made a sharp turn to capitalism by replacing the Little Red Book with American fast food and makeup products. Her Red Guards, who had previously persecuted the bourgeois elements of society, now enjoy a lifestyle of luxury and commodities, which forms a parallel to the reality of the current Chinese society.
Born in 1958 in Beijing, Jiang Shuo studied sculpture at the Central Academy of Arts and Design, which is now under Tsinghua University. Jiang, as the first female sculptor in China, completed her master degree in 1985 and started her career in teaching sculpture at the Central Academy until 1989. Jiang, with her husband Wu Shaoxiang, emigrated to Austria and worked at their joint studio there. Jiang’s works have been widely exhibited around the world, especially in Europe.
Her latest works present the Red Guard Series of small delicate sculptures cast in the ancient lost wax technique. Each sculpture is an original and not an edition, from her expression; she bears witness to the irony of her generation’s situation within Chinese society, straddling the extremes of revolution economic development.