Jewelry Artist Wallace Chan Christie's
Wallace Chan took us on a captivating adventure into his enchanting world as a jewelry artist, sculptor, and innovator in his celebrated exhibition "The Wheel of Time" presented by the renowned auction house Christie's London at the beginning of September.

Attending Christie’s London was a great  privilege for me, as it allowed me to  experience the extensive exhibition of  Wallace Chan: “The Wheel of Time,” showcasing Europe’s largest collection of  the master jewelry artist.

Featuring over 150 distinct jewelry items,  the exhibition presented a selection of the  artist’s renowned designs. Furthermore,  this event introduced approximately 20  unseen pieces as well as a compilation of titanium and iron sculptures. These artistic  creations embody Chan’s six groundbreaking concepts and illuminate  the significant milestones of his extraordinary half-century carreer.

By showcasing this exclusive exhibition,  Christie’s is emphasizing its dedication to supporting artists and the progression of  their artistic journeys. It also serves as a testament to the longstanding partnership  between Christie’s and Wallace Chan.

Wallace Chan’s artwork has been  showcased in previous exhibitions at  Christie’s in Hong Kong and Shanghai,  further solidifying their collaborative  relationship.

Usually utilized for auctions, the three  rooms exclusively assigned for the exhibition on the second floor serve a dual  purpose. In addition to crafting the  artworks and sculptures, Chan was also  responsible for fabricating the diverse  display cases and conceptualizing the  rooms overall appearance.

Everything was amazingly organized and presented,from the exhibition itself to the  artist talk at V&A museum, the artist tours  where Mr. Chan explained in detail, with  great patience his artistic vision, concept  and DNA, interviews and the press dinner  that gathered talented journalists, curators  and the team that made all this possible.

Christie’s even had an organized tour at the  British Museum to view Mr. Chan’s art  piece, which is part of the museum’s  permanent collection in the contemporary  section of the Chinese gallery.

A skilled sculptor and jewellery artist,  Wallace Chan, has reshaped contemporary  jewellery by adding a dreamy effect to his  innovative techniques.

Chan, who was born in Fujian, China in 1956, discovered his talent for art at a young age and started crafting plastic  flowers when he was just eight years old.  When he turned 16, he joined a  conventional workshop as an apprentice to  a sculptor, but he decided to leave after a  while and focus on improving his abilities  in creating raised intaglio and sunken  cameo reliefs. Throughout the years that  followed, Chan explored a diverse range of  methods and materials. Over time, Chan’s production started to  reveal themes such as nature, philosophy  and sculptural elements.

His creation of butterflies and flowers  embodies an artistic lavish style, while his  sculptural works exude a traditional  Romantic aesthetic.

His artistry have something unique and  captivating.

Once you’re in front of his creations, a new  world opens up for you.I asked myself repeatedly while watching  the exhibition, “How is this physically  possible?”

But I found out that Mr. Chan is an  innovator as well, and his love for creating  has pushed him to discover new  technologies, create his own tools, and  study over the years how to adapt some of  the materials to his unique creations.

Several innovations have been developed  by him, driven by his creativity and  curiosity. In 1987, he invented the  illusionary three-dimensional carving  technique called “The Wallace Cut” that is  used in the famous necklace “ The Hours” and the oversized broche carved in smoky  quartz. Being in the front of these creation  it’s a whole new feeling.

He has also mastered titanium in the field  of jewelry-making,he have a patented  technology for enhancing the luminosity of  jadeite and he invented intricate gemstone settings, eliminating the need for metal  claws.

To add an air of mystery, he created the  “Secret Abyss” set with yellow diamond,  quartz, emerald, amethyst and  diamonds. where more than a thousand  emeralds were set inside a block of rutilated quartz through a small opening.

The Chinese inventor is a precursor in  titanium jewellery. Its genius recognized  the potential of the modern material for its  lightness, hardness and its colouring  ability, which strongly supports Chan’s  creativity.

Lastly, his most recent invention is The  Wallace Chan Porcelain, a material that is  five times harder than steel. It took seven years to research, experiment, and develop The Wallace Chan  Porcelain, but the process itself had been  in progress for decades. The inspiration for  this material came from the creator’s  childhood memory of a porcelain spoon dropping and breaking on the floor. Despite  its apparent durability, he believed that  porcelain should possess strength that is  equivalent to the centuries of historical  significance it represents.

With a strength five times greater than  steel, The Wallace Chan Porcelain is deeply  connected to culture and history. It boasts vibrant colors, striking glossiness,  robustness, resilience, and a modern essence.

The British Museum has had “A New  Generation,” which was made with The  Wallace Chan Porcelain since 2019, as part of their permanent collection. It is the first  contemporary jewelry artwork by a Chinese  artist to be included in the museum’s  collection. During a tour arranged by Christie’s, I had the honor of seeing it in  person in the Chinese section of the renowned Museum.

In 2002, Wallace Chan received another  patent for his invention of a technique that  enhances the light and appearance of jade  by manipulating its surface.

The technique creates a mesmerizing  effect as the light bursts and travels along  the surface of the jade, causing the green colors to intensify and become more vibrant.

Patented Jade technique, 2002

Half a century of art and innovation under  one roof made me spent hours viewing the  entire exhibition with excitement and  curiosity.

You can delve into his soul and philosophy  through his works, and the sense of awe  will linger with you for a long time.

Another interesting event of the show was  the talk that Mr. Chan had at the V&A  Museum, an event that gathered an impressive crowd:journalists, jewelry designers seeking inspiration and  knowledge, art collectors or enthusiasts  who wanted to find out more about his work  and philosophy.

At the esteemed museum in London, Chan  delivered the “Talk” in which he expressed  his aspirations to create artwork that will  endure indefinitely.

The theme of his talk was based on a  traditional Chinese expression,  “Everything, big or small, is infinite.”

“It suggests that regardless of size or  scale, there is infinity within all things,”  Chan told the audience. “It means that even  the smallest or seemingly insignificant  elements have the potential for greatness  and limitless depth. It encourages us to  recognize that the grandeur of the universe  and existence can be found within the  tiniest details, and that there is a  continuous interconnectedness between  the microcosm and the macrocosm.”

A foundation for all of his work is described  by him using this expression. No matter if it  involves small gems and diamonds or  utilizing these materials as building  components for his grand and intricate  jewels, the idea of the interconnection  between big and small is consistently  present.

Chan presented a new artwork at the  exhibition called the “Legend of the Color Black.” This artwork included a black  diamond that weighed 312.24 carats, which  made it one of the biggest cut black  diamonds globally. During his presentation,  he expressed how this precious gem  inspired him to design a shoulder brooch  that combines his interest in human DNA  and neurons as the foundation of existence,  along with the enigmatic properties of a black diamond.

He said:“Every work of mine is either a self-  portrait or a metaphor of the creative  process. An artist sculpts not only with  intention but with purpose, like how nature  sculpts neurons through synaptic pruning.  The delicate balance of creation and  deconstruction mirrors the artistic process  itself. Every stroke finds its place and every  unnecessary element is delicately pruned  away. The brooch’s structure, a painstaking  result of both artistry and engineering,  finds its roots in sculpted titanium, a  reflection of the axons that stretch like  branches of thought, seeking connection, communicating across the neural  landscapes.”

He said,“Every work of mine is either a self-  portrait or a metaphor of the creative  process. An artist sculpts not only with  intention but with purpose, like how nature  sculpts neurons through synaptic pruning.  The delicate balance of creation and  deconstruction mirrors the artistic process  itself. Every stroke finds its place and every  unnecessary element is delicately pruned  away. The brooch’s structure, a painstaking  result of both artistry and engineering,  finds its roots in sculpted titanium, a  reflection of the axons that stretch like  branches of thought, seeking connection,  communicating across the neural  landscapes.”

Forever Dancing – Wind’s Tale brooch Yellow Diamond, Morganite, Tsavorite Garnet, Crystal, Butterfly Specimen, Mother-of-Pearl, Fancy Coloured Diamond, Diamond, Pink Sapphire, The Wallace Chan Porcelain, Titanium

Over the years, “butterfly man” Chan has  earned his nickname through his numerous butterfly creations, which are both  oversized and elaborately adorned with  jewels.According to him, his intention is not to  accurately portray the insect, but rather he  utilizes the creative process to narrate its  story. The color combinations of gemstones  used in his butterfly broches are unique  and very powerful.You have the feeling they  are from a different Universe, one that is  filled only with beauty and originality.

In my personal opinion, I believe that these  jewelry-sculptures originate from a  profound bond between the artist and  nature, as well as an extensive comprehension of their inner self.

The artist’s skill in transforming small  insects into large sculptures adorned with  gems is not limited to butterflies alone.

To  illustrate this, he is well-known for  fashioning a cicada into a brooch called  “Stilled Life” using precious materials such  as jade, titanium, and an array of colorful  gems.

Additionally, he devised a support for the insect, positioning it on vibrant green leaves embellished with gems and  made from bamboo-like titanium, thereby  converting the jewel into an artistic piece. Not content with this, he constructed a  “dwelling” for the artwork, which is essentially a three-dimensional frame.

Whether on a grand scale or in minute  details, my pursuit is always infinity. If I am  very fortunate, I will live to the grand old  age of 120, giving me 50 more years to live.  But when I work, I am working on a timeline  much, much longer than what this body of  flesh and blood promises. When I am no  longer here on this earth, my works will  continue to exist. My work transcends not  only my reality, but also my life and my  time.”

The idea of transcending time and infinity  are present also in the “Titans”, a series of  large scale titanium sculptures.

Wallace Chan has been able to maintain his  jewellery practice while also producing  unique sculptures, some of which can be  seen in this exhibition.

Demonstrating the unique connection between Chan’s  different artistic endeavors, his sculpture  ‘Titans I’ made from titanium and iron  stands prominently at the entrance of the  exhibition at Christie’s.

Working with titanium can be challenging  due to its high melting point of  approximately 1,700°C. Primarily utilized in  the aerospace field, Chan spent eight years  conducting meticulous research and  experimentation. As a result, he devised an  innovative technique which was initially  employed in the creation of jewelry.

Subsequently, he applied this method to  generate unprecedented sculptures of  remarkable size.

His “Titans” androgynous face is a  prominent theme in his sculptures. It emits  a peaceful aura, resembling Buddhist  imagery. It has the ability to evoke the  sense of ancient traditions or futuristic  elements.

Serving as an archetypal symbol, it  represents both the past and the future. Concentration is conveyed, inviting viewers  to explore its serene Buddha-like face with  exaggerated ears. These features draw  inspiration from Chinese folklore  goddesses depicted in gemstone carvings,  which he crafted during his formative  years. His expertise in crafting both small jewelry sculptures and grand monuments  enables him to bridge the gap between the  Microcosm and Macrocosm.

Chan’s working process in creating his  jewellery is metaphorically represented by  the exhibition’s title itself. Chinese  aesthetics and the inherent qualities of the  materials, along with the intricate carving  skills and time-consuming nature of his  creations, are all embraced in his art.

Every work of mine is either a self portrait  or metaphor of creation.

Wallace Chan

Written by Maria Pavel