Jaeger-LeCoultre and Roy Wang Present the Dragon of Time

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Jaeger-LeCoultre collaborates with Roy Wang for dynamic new artistic expression

Light is perhaps one of the single most important elements of human vision. It facilitates the creation of images in our minds and forms the basis of our perception. Without it, the wondrous creations of nature and artisans are imperceptible. Within the hallways of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Vallée de Joux manufacture, light allows its masterpieces to sparkle with splendour, where every stroke of hand decoration and the intricacies of watchmaking come to life. In the same spirit of artistic expression, Jaeger-LeCoultre welcomes rising light painter Roy Wang into its Made of Makers family of esteemed artists gathered to expand La Grande Maison’s dialogue between watchmaking and the arts.

The rising Chinese artist, renowned for his culturally rich imagery, brings his signature dragon to life through calligraphic-like strokes of light and a peculiar paradox — tempering with the speed of time. Wang’s rapid light strokes and the camera’s slow shutter speed combine to capture the ephemerality of light painting. Precision, another hallmark of Jaeger-LeCoultre and a central element to this year’s novelties plays a critical role in Wang’s spatial awareness when conceptualising his art. While larger pieces, be it in watchmaking or light painting, are more forgiving with tolerances, the need for precision amplifies as creations are miniaturised.

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Light painter, Roy Wang

Jaeger-LeCoultre commissioned three photographs and a stop-motion video as part of this collaboration, as Wang drew from his experience after visiting and discovering watchmaking in depth at La Grande Maison. Together with Wang’s dynamism and signature styles, the two worlds of East and West combine seamlessly for the artistic expressions of  (dá – Flying Dragon),  (ruò – All the Best), and  (yì – Burning Flame). The former  pays tribute to the Maison’s iconic Reverso, while the latter two  and  respectively celebrate the intricacies of the Duometre watch calibre (this year’s novelty highlight) and pay homage to a 19th-century Jaeger-LeCoultre pocket watch. At the pinnacle of the duo’s collaboration is the stop-motion video 时光绘龙 (Dragon of Time), as Wang’s dragon embarks on a fantastical journey through the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture shrouded in darkness and shining a new light on La Grande Maison. 

Wang’s four commissioned works will make their public debut on the opening day of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s The Precision Pioneer exhibition in Dubai from 7–19 May (click here to register if you happen to be in Dubai). Men’s Folio had the opportunity to speak to Catherine Rénier, CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Roy Wang two weeks before the exhibition about their artistic collaboration and the facets of precision in their lives.

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Catherine Rénier, CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, at the Maison’s Watches & Wonders Geneva booth this year.

Precision is the central theme of Jaeger-LeCoultre this year. Though it’s a very complex topic that can go on for hours, what is the simplest expression of precision in La Grande Maison?

Catherine Rénier (CR): Precision is about the perfect gesture if I have to condense it into a few words. It is the perfect gesture when elaborating the artistic expression of a watch’s decoration, the perfect gesture of the watch’s hairspring and beating heart that gives the energy and chronometric precision, and the perfect gesture of the components’ production because this is almost the starting point of precision in watchmaking. Precision has been an ongoing topic and a foundation from day one throughout the 190-plus years of history of our maison, and a value that has run through under manufacture since then.

Describe the importance of precision during your process and how it affects the final results as a light-painter, Roy.

Roy Wang (RW): Precision is very important for me, too, especially when the light strokes are invisible to me during the process. I control the light through muscle memory and spatial memory. I was a sportsman before, and I dedicated my time to practicing my basic skills. I did the same when I first started with light painting in 2010. I spent so much time painting a single shape. With practice and knowing that practice makes perfect, I can draw whatever I want now with maybe one or two attempts.

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What is an element of precision that goes into your everyday life?

RW: I’m an easygoing person, you know, but my friends always say, “Roy goes into a crazy mode when he’s light painting”. All the details and precision involved with light painting, such as the shooting time, camera settings, the distance between me, the light source, and the background, make me very serious. My concentration levels are 120% when I’m light painting or even when I played rugby last time.

CR: I would say the mastery of time. Being extremely busy, professionally and personally, like everyone else, the precision of allocating the right time and being fully dedicated to what you do at every moment is essential. That requires careful and precise time management and the precision of being present in whatever you are doing at any given moment.

The Made of Makers program explores the relationship between horology and art, including contemporary art, gastronomy and music. What was your first impression when you came across Wang’s artworks, and what did they bring to Jaeger-LeCoultre?

CR: Photography has been a long-time inspiration for the manufacture. We saw the canvas camera, and we also have a partnership with the Museum of Photography in France, so it’s an artform that is very present in Jaeger-LeCoultre. With Roy’s light painting, we come across a modern and new interpretation of photography. I love to see the evolution of the Maison’s relationship with this art form. It’s very meaningful.

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The Duometre Calibre 388 housed in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Duometre Heliotourbillon Perpetual.

What are some values of Jaeger-LeCoultre that convinced you to join as one of their Made of Makers?

RW: Firstly, I’m very honoured and proud to be the first Chinese artist to join the Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Made of Makers family. I was very happy working with the (Jaeger-LeCoultre) team and incorporating Chinese elements into the three single-exposure works. This project challenged me a lot because I usually work on large-scale paintings, but Jaeger-LeCoultre brought me into the tiny watchmaker’s universe. I had to review my tools and techniques, but I enjoyed the challenge and the final outcome. I drew the dragon around a hundred times, and the team spent roughly six hours working on the stop-motion video of the dragon flying through the manufacture that Catherine likes. I love the connection between the two cultures.

The stop-motion video shows the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture in complete darkness, only illuminated by Wang’s dragon flying through the halls and corridors. Did it give you a different perspective of the manufacture?

CR: Seeing the centuries-old Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture open up to another culture, another art form, is very touching. The best moment was seeing Wang’s dragon flying through the corridors because it’s a symbol of how two worlds of technical expertise, artistic expression, and two cultures can meet each other and give a whole different perspective on their artistic expression.

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The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph housing the new integrated chronograph calibre 829.

Your work involves an element of the unknown, as you rely on spatial awareness and muscle memory. What do you “see” when you plan your work?

RW: As I said, it’s all about practice. When I started light painting in 2010, I saw a little beam of light for the first time while drawing. I started seeing light trails about one or two seconds long with more practice. Afterward, I used my left hand to mark my drawings. For instance, I’ll mark the position of the dragon’s eye before moving to its head, and so on. Now, I remember the positions through muscle memory. Practice makes perfect; that is my idea for light painting.

A picture of Pablo Picasso from 1949 in Life magazine captured by Gjon Mili sparked your interest and passion in light painting, Roy. What would you like to communicate with people when they see your artworks many years later?

RW: Years ago, a Spanish girl emailed me saying she was inspired by my light dragon from Pingyao, which I posted on Instagram and asked many questions about her graduation thesis. I later started my light painting series about the 山海经  (The Classic of Mountains and Seas, a compilation of mythic geography and beasts). I adapted it and drew different beasts in modern cities, and through this art, people learned more about Chinese culture. People later started asking about my days as a light painter and rugby player. All of these are for the future, and after this project (with Jaeger-LeCoultre), more people around the world will know about light painting. I love the video so much and could watch it the whole day! [laughs]

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The dragon is one of Roy’s signature subjects in his artworks. In Chinese culture, the dragon represents strength, power, success and ambition, to name a few. How do these values resonate with you and Jaeger-LeCoultre?

CR: Well, ambition, strength, and power resonate with any company that wants to shine in its field of expression. From an artistic standpoint, it’s a beautiful representation of a very expressive animal with a lot of detail, as seen in the images and video. The dragon has inspired some of our creations over the years, and there’s always an intricacy to it. So, at many levels, and again, this time with Wang, it means stretching ourselves every time we work with the dragon.

This article was first seen on mens-folio.com.

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