1994 No. 4

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  • Provenance

    Serieuze Zaken Gallery, Amsterdam
    Collection of Fezi Kahlesi, The Netherlands
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    Sichuan Fine Arts Publishing House ed., Collected Editions of Chinese Oil Painter Volume of Fang Lijun, Sichuan, 2006, p.64 (illustrated)
    Carol Lu, Living Like a Wild Dog: 1963-2008 Archive Exhibition of Fang Lijun, Taipei, 2009, p. 228 (illustrated)
    Tingmei Wang and Ruxuan Xie eds., Endlessness of Life: 25 Years Retrospect of Fang Lijun, exh. cat., Taipei, 2009, p.228 (illustrated)
    Peng Lu and Chun Liu, Fang Lijun: Works Catalogue, Beijing, 2010, p. 262 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    As one of two paintings created by Fang Lijun offered in the present sale, 1994 No. 4 presents a key artwork from the artist’s meditative 1994 blue Swimming series, a concise body of works that has been particularly well-received by an international audience for its universal layering of meanings. Acclaimed by critic Li Xianting as a pioneer alongside Liu Wei of Cynical Realism, Fang creates fictional and ambiguous narratives to examine the shift in China. His works personify sentiments of enervation and angst as a tool to describe the radical change from a collective sense of self-sacrifice to the contemporary state of individualism. (V. Tong, ‘Chinese Cynical Realism: Fang Lijun and his ‘All Too Human World,’ Art Radar, 27 November 2017) As a leading figure of China’s avant-garde art movement, Fang has been featured in several historical exhibitions including the 1994 22nd International São Paulo Biennial, one of the earliest exhibitions to bring contemporary Chinese art to a global audience, in which the artist showcased 1994 No. 6, an important early work from the same series as the present lot.

    First rendered in 1988 as a breakaway from the ‘85 New Wave Movement, the anonymous bald figure depicted in 1994 No. 4 represents a hallmark of Fang’s artistic vocabulary. “I noticed that although a shaved head on its own is very striking, its individuality disappears in a group of shaved heads,” Fang explains. In the present work however, the anonymity afforded by the group setting is replaced by the inundating water that obscures any signs of the figure’s identity and further emphasises his isolation. This underscores Fang’s notion that “an individual person’s feeling of being omitted and ignored in society is especially strong in our culture.”

    Depicting one of Fang’s many anonymous bald-headed figures submerged in a body of deep blue water, 1994 No. 4 illustrates the artist’s recurrent fascination with the theme of water. In Laozi’s philosophy, the metaphor of water demonstrates the most suitable and successful living approach. (Zhao T.Y., ‘To Change the Way of Seeing,’ in Fang L.J. and Zhang Z.K., Fang Lijun, Beijing: Today Art Museum, 2006, pp.13-15) In response to Fang’s interest in this subject, Gregory Galligan writes that “water, like other encompassing mediums, evokes both harsh containment and spiritual liberation.” (G. Galligan, ‘Fang Lijun: Arario,’ Art In America 97, no. 4, April 2009, pp. 146-147) Although the blue liquid engulfs and nearly drowns the figure portrayed in 1994 No. 4 to symbolise the figure’s powerlessness or loss of voice, the water also serves as a vehicle to facilitate his unrestricted movement. While Series 2 No. 10, another work offered in the sale created earlier in 1992, plays with the concept of figures swimming in the water, the present blue work plunges deeper into the subject. Distinct from the cartoon-like renderings in gaudy tones characteristic of Fang’s swimming works from 1995 that heighten the sense of absurdity in his later paintings, the present lot depicts a rather serene image. The work underlines Fang’s highly naturalistic handling of white pigments to depict the soft billowing movement of the water stimulated by the figure’s body. The appeal of 1994 No. 4, nevertheless lies in Li Xianting’s notion that Fang’s “internal image, underwater swimming, expresses a latent premonition—the deep tranquillity harbours a certain menace.” ( Li X.T., ‘The “Shaved Head POPI” Created by Fang Lijun,’ in R. Malasch , P. Hovdenakk, and Li X.T., Fang Lijun, Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1998, p. 7)

    While Fang’s early works utilised the widespread visual oppositions of the 1980s “culture debates” propagated by the popular television series 'River Elegy' (Heshang), Fang moved beyond the dichotomised 'river Elegy' idiom from late 1992 onwards to create 1994 No. 4. (Chou Y.T., ‘The Floating Body in the Art of Fang Lijun: An Artist’s Comment on the Human Condition in Post-Cultural Revolution China,’ China Information, vol. 13, issue 2-3, 1 September 1998, pp. 85-114) Though Heshang utilised contrasting imagery such as land versus sea, yellow versus blue, and individual versus group to represent China as a traditionally landlocked agricultural society in contrast to the blue sea-going culture of the West, the present lot participates in a more complex psychological dilemma.(L.O.F. Lee quoted in Ma S.Y., ‘The Role of Power Struggle and Economic Changes in the “Heshang Phenomenon” in China,’ Modern Asian Studies 30, no. 1, 1996, pp. 29-50) According to scholar Chou Yuting, the lightness of Fang's figures in the water refers to their being suspended in a state of ambivalence and irresolution. Evoking a sense of vulnerability that informed Chinese culture during this period, 1994 No. 4 depicts a figure, naked and alone, trying to exist and stay afloat in the large seemingly endless body of water.

    Despite the culturally specific lens of Heshang, Fang's blue water paintings recall memories and stir emotions for a wide ranging international audience due to their representations of unknown territories and explorations of hidden unconscious depths.( K. Ross, Revue Bibliographique De Sinologie, Nouvelle Série, 18, 2000, p. 306) With regard to the characters depicted in his work, Fang explains, “I work hard to remove any narrative. Perhaps they are individuals, perhaps against the background of society, or among other individuals, or lost in their own dreams. These scenes portray relations, but not specific stories.” (Fang Lijun interviewed by Jérome Sans, "A Primitive State of Humanity," in J. Sans, Y. Chen, and M. Woo, China Talks: Interviews With 32 Contemporary Artists By Jérôme Sans = Dui hua Zhongguo : Jieluomu Sangsi yu 32 wei dang dai yi shu jia fang tan, Hong Kong: Timezone 8, 2009) Already a major figure in China and internationally, Fang continues, with such projects, to push his art in exciting new directions, paralleling the contemporary accelerated pace of change in his home country.

  • Catalogue Essay

    本次拍賣呈獻兩幅方力鈞作品,其中《1994年4號》,是1994年藍色游泳系列的代表作,更是藝術家當時精神思想的寫照。這些作品意涵豐富而且反應當時中國社會的進程,有其時代意義,因此受到許多藏家欣賞。藝評家栗憲庭將方力鈞與劉煒並列為玩世現實主義的先驅。方力鈞那些模棱兩可的虛構語言及符號反應了中國社會的變化,他將沮喪和恐懼的情緒人物化,描述從集體的自我奉獻精神到當代個人主義的劇烈轉變。(Valencia Tong,<中國玩世現實主義:方力鈞與他的俗世>,Art Radar,2017年11月27日,2018年3月 27日登入) 方力鈞曾參與過多場重要展覽,包括1994年第22屆聖保羅雙年展。聖保羅雙年展是最早向國際展示中國當代藝術作品的展覽之一,方力鈞當年的參展作品是《1994年6號》,與本畫同屬一個系列。

    畫中這個無名的光頭人物首次出現在1988年,當時方力鈞正與「85新潮」運動分道揚鑣,而《1994年4號》 的光頭人物是其個人藝術詞彙的標誌。「我注意到儘管一個光頭很引人注目,但放在一堆光頭裡面,他的個性就消失了」,方力鈞這樣解釋。在這幅作品中,紛紛擾擾的人海,被換成了淹沒身軀的水。流動的水掩蓋了人物的身份特徵,突顯出他的孤立無援。這幅畫面道出了藝術家所認為「在我們的文化中,個人被社會遺忘和無視的感覺特別強烈。」

    方力鈞在其他作品也描繪過這樣一個浮沉在深藍色水裡的光頭人物,《1994年4號》代表藝術家對「水」反覆不斷的探討。在老子的哲學思想中,水象徵最具適應力、最無往不利的生存方式。(趙汀陽,《改變觀看的方式》,方力鈞與張子康,<方力鈞>,第 13-15頁,北京:今日美術館,2006年) 對於方力鈞以水為題材,藝術史家格戈利·伽利甘(Gregory Galligan)表示:「水如其它包圍一切的媒介,令人想起嚴苛壓制和精神解放。」格戈利·伽利甘,《方力鈞:Arario》,< Art In America>,第 4號,2009年4月,第146-147頁,2018年3月27日登入,Art & Architecture Source,EBSCO《1994年4號》裡的人被藍色的水包圍、甚至幾乎淹沒,象徵人的軟弱無力或失去呼聲,但水也是承載人、讓人自由伸展移動的載體。本次拍賣的另一幅1992年作品《系列二(之十)》年份較早,雖然也描繪在水中游泳的人物,但這幅藍色作品對這個主題的探討卻觸及更深層次。1995年以後,方力鈞的游泳主題作品中的人物更加卡通化,色調花俏俗麗,突顯出荒謬的氛圍,而本作的畫面卻靜謐平和。在這幅作品中可見,方力鈞善用白色顏料,自然地表現因撥弄而泛蕩的水波。《1994年4號》的耐人尋味,正如栗憲庭所指,是方力鈞的「內在形象,在水下游泳,表達一種潛伏的預感——深沉的寧靜暗藏著某種威脅。」(栗憲庭,<方力鈞創造的光頭潑皮> ,羅伯·馬拉殊,佩·賀丹納克,栗憲庭,《方力鈞》,阿姆斯特丹:阿姆斯特丹市立博物館,1998年,第 7頁)

    1980年代,論政電視節目《河殤》席捲全國,掀起了一場「文化反思熱」,節目裡對比鮮明的畫面,被方力鈞套用在早期作品中。自1992年後期起,方力鈞逐漸脫離《河殤》的二分語境,創造出《1994年4號》。(Chou Yuting,《方力鈞藝術裡浮在水上的人物:藝術家對文革後中國的人文狀況的評論》,,第13冊,第2-3期,第 85-114頁,1998年9月1日.)《河殤》大量使用對比畫面,例如土地對海洋、黃對藍、個人對群體,將中國的內陸型農業社會,與西方的藍色航海文化作對照,但這幅作品卻探析更複雜的精神困境。(引述李歐梵 ,Ma, Shu-Yun,《中國「河殤現象」中權力鬥爭和經濟變化的影響》 ,第30號,第1期,1996年,第 29-50頁) 學者Chou Yuting 指出,方力鈞作品中那些在水中載浮載沉的人物身軀輕盈,反映他們停滯在一個矛盾、猶豫不定的狀態中。《1994年4號》瀰漫一種脆弱的氣氛,就如當時中國文化的處境,畫中的人物赤裸、孤身一人,在看似廣闊無邊的水域裡為存在而掙扎,奮力浮在水面上。

    儘管帶著《河殤》的文化視角,方力鈞的藍色水作品亦代表未知的領域,探索埋藏在深處的潛意識,因此能引起國際藝術圈共鳴,勾起我們的回憶和情感。(羅斯·坎茲,<漢學書志評論>,新系列,第18輯,2000年,第 306頁 ) 關於作品裡的人物,方力鈞這樣解釋:「我著力刪除任何描述。他們或許是個體,或是站在社會背景下,或與其他個體在一起,或各自迷失在自己的夢裡。這些場景呈現關係,並非特定的故事。」(方力鈞受傑羅姆·桑斯訪問,《人性的原始狀態》,傑羅姆·桑斯、Yun Chen、Michelle Woo,<對話中國:傑羅姆·桑斯與32位當代藝術家訪談>,香港:Timezone8,2009年) 方力鈞在中外藝術界地位顯著,並繼續為他的藝術發展新方向,反映中國當下變遷的急速步伐。

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Pioneers of Modernism: A Selection from The Scheeres Collection

1994 No. 4

1994
signed, titled and dated 'Fang Lijun [in Chinese] "94 No.4"' lower left; further signed, titled and dated 'Fang Lijun [in Chinese] "1994. No.4" 1994.1-1995.2' on the reverse
oil on canvas
140 x 179.8 cm. (55 1/8 x 70 3/4 in.)
Painted in January 1994-February 1995.

Estimate
HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

sold for HK$2,500,000

Contact Specialist
Jonathan Crockett
Deputy Chairman, Asia and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia
+852 2318 2023

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department
+852 2318 2011

Sandy Ma
Head of Sale
+852 2318 2025

Pioneers of Modernism: A Selection from the Scheeres Collection

Hong Kong Auction 27 May 2018