Nature’s Expression

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Singapore
    Christie’s, Hong Kong, 25 May 2013, Lot 15
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    For Singaporean artist Cheong Soo Pieng, the opportunity to spend two years in Europe from 1962 to 1963 under the patronage of Singaporean magnate Dato’ Loke Wan Tho precipitated an unprecedented rupture within his art as he embraced abstraction. This bold foray into abstraction can be traced to Cheong’s persistent desire to develop and innovate new forms of expression within his art that would place him in dialogue with global art movements as well as the specificity of his context.

    Nature’s Expression is an evocative example of Cheong’s work from this seminal period. Rendering the background in undertones of red and yellow in thick, short strokes, Cheong creates texture and dimension within an otherwise flattened picture plane. The foreground is accentuated with thick and confidently modulated black paint in an application that draws immediate correlation with techniques of traditional Chinese ink painting. Achieving a successful assimilation of the elegance of Eastern sensibilities of ink paining within the medium of oil, the work achieves in presenting a transcendent rendering of the traditional subject of landscape.

    While in Europe, Cheong resided mainly in London, and was able to behold in person masterpieces of impressionism, cubism, surrealism, and abstract expressionism that he had previously only studied and ruminated upon through images in books and catalogues. Beyond the walls of the museum, Cheong also encountered the work of Chinese artists who had been living in Europe, such as Zao Wou-Ki and Sanyu, and had developed a new path of modernism and abstraction through melding of Eastern and Western aesthetic sensibilities. Notably, Cheong exhibited a selection of abstract works in the same vein as the present lot, Nature’s Expression, in a solo show at the Redfern Gallery on Cork Street in London in 1963, where Zao Wou-Ki’s also exhibited in the same year.

    Born in Xiamen, China in 1917, Cheong was exposed through his education at the Xiamen Academy of Fine Arts as well as the Xin Hua Arts Academy in Shanghai, to the fundamentals and techniques of Western oil painting, as well as traditional Chinese ink painting. However, it was not until his arrival in Singapore in 1946, that Cheong began to freely experiment primarily within the medium oil. Cheong found himself unmoored from the environment in China that necessitated a strict adherence to formal and academic styles of painting, and within an entirely different landscape. He became quickly immersed in the community of migrant Chinese artists in Singapore and began teaching at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts alongside figures such as Liu Kang, Chen Wen Hsi. As a prominent figure within the Singapore art scene, Cheong’s subsequent stylistic experimentations including his interest in abstraction would come to influence the development of modern art in Singapore.

    Cheong can hence be regarded as a simultaneously reactive and reflexive painter, in close conversation with the context of his environment while retaining a stylistic character that he constantly sought to challenge and refine. Across artistic experiments and ruptures which include early works filtered through the language of cubism, as well as his well-known renderings of stylised female figures within idyllic tropical landscapes, Cheong’s works display a persistent adherence to Chinese aesthetic philosophy and a sensitivity towards composition and line. His sojourn to Europe in the 1960s served as a catalyst for new modes of expression within the integrity of his visual language. Producing a limited number of works while in Europe, Nature’s Expression serves as a rare and important testament to this pivotal moment within Cheong’s career.

  • Catalogue Essay

    對於新加坡藝術家鍾泗濱而言,因在新加坡巨賈陸運濤的資助下,於1962年至1963年旅居歐洲的兩年期間研習抽象藝術,而迎來了其藝術創作中前所未有的轉折。這種對抽象藝術的大膽嘗試可以追溯到鐘氏在他的藝術創作中對新的表達方式的不停尋找和創新的願望,也正是這種不斷的探尋讓他能夠與全球藝術運動以及他自身的特殊語境進行對話。

    《自然的神韻》是鍾氏在該開創時期頗為讓人玩回味的一個例子。他以濃重厚而短促的筆觸,運用淡紅與淡黃兩色渲染背景,為原本平面的畫面創造出肌理和立體感。前景則用厚重且自信的黑色來做展現,手法讓人立刻聯想到其與中國傳統水墨畫技巧之間的關聯。作品是以油畫作為創作媒介,然而卻顯東方水墨的優雅意境,這件作品實現了對傳統山水畫的超然描寫繪。

    在歐洲,鐘氏主要居住在倫敦,並且得以親眼看到,那些過往他只能在書籍或畫冊的圖片中所研究的印象派、立體派、超現實主義和抽象表現主義傑作。除了流漣在美術館吸收藝術的精髓,他還接觸到當時同樣生活在歐洲的藝術家如:趙無極、常玉等人的作品,並通過融合東西方審美品味,開闢了一條現代主義和抽象主義的新道路。值得留意的是,鐘氏1963年在倫敦的庫克街的瑞德芬(Redfern)畫廊舉辦的個展中,展出的一系列的抽象作品與本拍品《自然的神韻》同出一脈。而趙無極的作品亦於同年在該畫廊展出。

    1917年出生於中國廈門,鐘泗濱在廈門美術專科學校和上海新華美術專科學校接受教育時,同時接觸到西方油畫的基本原理和技法,以及與中國傳統水墨畫。然而,直到1946年抵達新加坡時,鐘氏才開始在油畫這一媒介上得以自由實驗。他發現自己從中國嚴格恪守繪畫中的正式學術風格的環境中脫離,並且進入到一個完全不同的環境之中。他很快地進入到新加坡的中國移民藝術家的社群中,並且與劉抗、陳文希等藝術家一同任教於南洋美術專科學校。作為新加坡藝術界的知名人物,鐘氏隨後在包括抽象藝術等方向的風格化實驗也影響了新加坡現代藝術的發展。

    因此鐘可被視為一位既具有知性辯證又同時反身思考的畫家,在與他所處的環境語境有著緊密的對話同時,又保留了他不斷去尋求挑戰和精進的風格特徵。在其不同藝術實驗和階段中,包括他通過立體主義語言表達的早期作品,以及在他著名的田園詩般的熱帶風景中風格化的女性人物繪畫,鐘氏的作品都體現了他對中國審美哲學的持續恪守,以及對構圖和線條的敏感性。他在1960年代在歐洲的旅居成為了他視覺語言完整性中新表達方式的催化劑。此期間留下作品數量並不多,《自然的神韻》是對鐘泗濱的藝術生涯中這一關鍵時期的重要見證。

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19

Property of a Distinguished Southeast Asian Collector

Nature’s Expression

1963
signed and dated 'Soo Pieng [in Chinese] 1963' lower right; further signed, titled and dated '"NATURE'S EXPRESSION" Soo Pieng 1963' on the reverse
oil on canvas
101.5 x 153 cm. (39 7/8 x 60 1/4 in.)
Painted in 1963.

Estimate
HK$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 
€168,000-224,000
$192,000-256,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2018