Untitled

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Serieuze Zaken, Amsterdam
    Private Collection, Netherlands
    Canvas International Art, Amsterdam
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Austria, Kunstraum Innsbruck; Finland, Kuopio Art Museum; Finland, Salo Art Museum; Norway, Haugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum; Sweden, Ystad Konstmuseum; Netherlands, Singer Laren Museum; Germany, Kunsthalle Recklinghausen, Facing China: Works of Art from the Fu Ruide Collection, 17 May 2008 - 24 June 2012, pp. 58, 65 (illustrated, p. 58)

  • Literature

    Christoph Noe, ed., Liu Ye Catalogue Raisonné 1991-2015, Germany, 2015, no.97-13, p. 275 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I grew up in a world that was covered up in red – the red sun, the red flag and red scarves. As for green pines and cedars, or sunflowers, they were usually just foils for the symbolism of red.” Liu Ye

    Known for adopting features of a chubby toddler and injecting his works with an innately cartoonish air, Liu Ye created Untitled in 1997, three years after his return from Berlin to China, just as the artist began to progress in his own terms by holding his first solo exhibition at the Ming Jing Di Gallery in Beijing.

    Upon Liu’s return to Beijing in 1994, he began using the colour red substantially in his works. Untitled comes from Liu’s compelling body of works that feature an iconic motif – the red curtain. Painted with a delicate gradient of reds, the curtain dominates the canvas further and serves as the backdrop of the scene. A sense of volume is created through the precise, undulating use of light and shade. In spite of the many connotations one can associate with the red hue featured in Untitled, it is key to note that Liu’s time in Berlin took the artist out of China at a pivotal moment in its recent history, allowing his work to develop independently, away from a political standpoint and to watch events unfold from a Western perspective. Red thus serves as a colour that Liu returns to in memory of his childhood, where it was once the only choice of colour in a world of red leadership, yet through his painting, the shade of red attains freedom. It is no longer the political colour it once was, but here it is treated abstractly in the form of a stage curtain, becoming a bearer of meanings from a wide sphere of time and space. Setting the scene upon a theatre stage, this locus rouses one’s imagination as Liu Ye conjures up dreams and carries us away from reality. The theatre was an environment that Liu was closest with during his early childhood days: it served not only as the place where his father’s plays for children were performed, but was also used for red propaganda in the form of revolutionary operas or choir performances in a wider societal context.

    The artist’s earliest thematic treatments of the theatre’s stage begin in Beijing Madonna (1995), featuring choir members as rounded cherubs with wings, performing in front of the red curtain with a distinct sense of order. Liu puts an emphasis on the children, placing them in the foreground of the composition and in turn, giving the red curtain a role similar to that of a stage prop. We see more significance given to the red curtain in his naval ship series, Untitled (1997-98). However, it is in the present work that we see Liu’s first real attempt in addressing the motif of the red curtain as an integral part of his composition, and elevating it to assume the role of a protagonist in its own right. The depiction of a curtain is symbolic and can often be alluded to the act of concealing, but in Untitled we see a possibility of the artist’s self-discovery. By playing with the circular shape of the spotlight against the squared composition, it creates spatial imagination, bearing resemblance to Tondo art, or black-and-white silent films, where a blackout would appear, leaving the main character in focus. The artist returns to this theme of the stage in Poet (1999) and Untitled (2000) was the very last work to feature the ever-important red curtain. This period saw one of the artist’s most important series with the frequent utilisation of the colour red since his return to Beijing. The motif of the curtain re-emerges in his works after 2000, but sees an artistic shift where he moves away from red, and begins to use more bluish and greenish hues.

    Untitled is a far more playful rendition of the stage theme compared to the other works in the series, where a spotlight highlights two little cherubic toddlers, sunglasses in place, poking their heads out from the curtain and mischievously sticking their tongues out; revealing a fragment of an outdoor scenery with a glimpse of blue and pink skies. Liu preserves his own image in Untitled in the form of a little boy on the left who bears a striking resemblance to the artist. Liu first began incorporating the character of a young boy with sunglasses in the early 1990s, as seen in Interior (1993), which represented his love for the comedic genre through his infatuation with actors such as Stephen Chow, Charlie Chaplain and Buster Keaton. Liu’s characters were dressed in striped shirts, suggestive of the attire that was very common for younger children in the west in the mid to late 1990s, the golden age of Disney films. The artist always had a fascination for the world of fairy tales, harkening back to his childhood days having been born to a father who was a children’s playwright, and discovering a big black chest of Western story books under his bed. Perhaps the only glimpse of the outdoor scenery we have is in fact a window to the artist’s discovery of self through a nostalgic looking back into his past. Born in Beijing in 1964 and growing up against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution, Liu spent most of his childhood living a censored and audited life in the countryside with his father, but found freedom in the form of the story books hidden by his parents. He came to love Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which tells the story of an artist becoming infatuated with the youth and beauty of the subject of his full-length portrait; thereby selling his soul to ensure that the portrait, rather than himself, will age and fade. The story lays the seeds for Liu’s artistic style in the years to come and is the very reason why Liu never fails to plant upon his characters a sense of eternal childlike innocence, with their rotund face, ruddy cheeks and short statures - the cartoonish features of cherubic children. But beyond these childlike characteristics, Liu conveys an attitude of life. By returning to the imaginations and fantasies of his younger self through the little boy and girl in Untitled, Liu sheds the mask and outer garments of adulthood, restoring himself to the state of a dreamy child deep in thought.

    Untitled is an exceptional early work in the artist’s oeuvre and references one of Liu Ye’s most iconic images. It stands alone with the artist’s most personal vision eloquently laced with the political environment that he grew up in yet fully shows his first-hand understanding of Western art and culture.

    Phillips would like to thank Liu Ye for his assistance with this essay.

  • Catalogue Essay

    「我在一個充滿了紅色的世界長大,紅太陽、紅旗和紅領巾。至於綠松樹、柏樹和向陽花,都只是紅色寓意的陪襯品罷了。」劉野

    劉野以其筆下稚氣的圓胖小孩及畫作中所注入之卡通風格所為人廣知,《無題》是其1997年作品,當時他從柏林回到中國已三年,正值他在北京明經第畫廊舉行其首次個展,並開始形成自己的風格。

    劉野於1994年回到北京後,便開始在作品中大量使用紅色。《無題》來自劉野一系列以其標誌性元素紅帷幕為主題的作品。帷幕的紅色漸變細膩,成為畫面主體,也是此場景的主要背景。通過精準細緻的光影處理,為畫面帶來立體空間的厚重感。儘管人們可以將許多意涵與《無題》中的紅色聯繫起來,但值得注意的是, 而之前他在柏林的時期正是中國近代史的一個重要時刻,因此,他得以遠離政治因素,自由獨立地發展自己的藝術,並站在一個西方角度觀察整個事件的始末。「紅色」是劉野回歸兒時記憶的顏色,那是當時紅色領導的唯一推崇色調,但在他的畫作中,紅色得到自由,它不再包含以前的政治色彩,以舞台帷幕的形式出現,成為時間與空間的代表。此畫場景如劇場舞台,是激發觀者想象力的一個地方,劉野呈現出夢想,把我們帶出現實。劇場是劉野從童年起就很熟悉的環境,這裡不僅是父親的兒童話劇上演的地方,亦是上演當時社會背景下樣版戲和歌舞劇等紅色宣樣的場域。

    劉野作品中的舞台主題從1995年的《北京聖母》開始,該畫呈現帶著翅膀的小天使組成的歌唱團,在紅色帷幕前排列整齊,進行表演。劉野把焦點放在孩子們身上,把他們置於畫作的前景顯目位置,紅帷幕繼而成為一個舞台道具。到了軍艦系列《無題》(1997-98年),紅帷幕的角色開始變得更為重要,而本次作品中,紅帷幕正式成為構圖中的核心,劉野並將自己置入畫面中成為主角之一。帷幕是富有象徵意義的,經常有隱蔽遮瞞之意,但在此幅《無題》中,我們或許可以看到藝術家的自我找尋。方正構圖上的圓形聚光燈之光線形成一種空間幻想,像文藝復興時期特有的圓形畫幅般,或黑白默劇中熄燈後頓時成為焦點的主角一般。劉野在其後的《詩人》(1999年)和《無題》(2000年)再次探討舞台這個主題,後者為最後一幅以紅帷幕為主題的作品。此時期是藝術家回到北京後大量使用紅色為中心的重要系列作品。帷幕在其2000年以後的作品中亦再出現過,但藝術家已放下紅色,轉而採用藍色系和綠色系的帷幕。

    與同系列其他作品相比,《無題》對舞台主題的描繪更添趣味性,圓圈聚光燈下的兩個圓胖小孩戴著墨鏡,從帷幕後探出頭來,還頑皮地伸著舌頭,觀者可以看到一點帷幕後的室外景觀,層層綠樹後是一片藍色與粉色的天空。透過畫面左邊如藝術家縮影的小男孩,劉野保留了自己希望成為喜劇演員的這個心願與志向。劉野於1990年代初開始在作品中描繪戴墨鏡小男孩,如1993年的《室內》,作品中描繪了他迷戀的喜劇演員,包括周星馳、查理·卓別靈和巴斯特·基頓,是他對喜劇熱愛的一種個人情感回憶的表達。他們身穿條紋上衣,猶如1990年代中後期,迪士尼電影盛行時,西方小孩的普遍穿著。藝術家一向對童話世界充滿興趣,這可追溯至其童年時代,父親是兒童劇的編劇,劉野床底下黑色大箱裡滿是西方故事書。此畫中那一點點室外景色或許是藝術家通過回顧過去的一種自我尋找。劉野於1964年在北京出生,在文化大革命的大環境中成長,其童年大部分時間都和爸爸一起住在鄉郊,過著被監控的生活,但他在父母藏起來的故事書中找到另一番天地。他更愛上王爾德的著作《道林·格雷的畫像》,此書講述一位藝術家愛上自己畫中少年的青春與美貌,一發不可收拾,決定出賣自己的靈魂,以確保畫中的少年會代替自己衰老消退。這個故事種下了劉野藝術風格創作的種子,他亦因此總是為畫中人物注入一種孩童的天真,圓胖的臉龐,紅潤的面頰,短小的身子,就像是一個個卡通化的小天使。而表面的童真背後,劉野也傳遞了一種生活的態度。透過《無題》中的小男孩和小女孩回到自己幼時幻想的奇異世界,剝去成年人的面具和服裝外表,重塑令人深刻反思的夢幻孩童。

    《無題》是劉野藝術事業早期的傑出作品,選題亦是其最具標誌性的代表,在屬於他個人的視角中注入成長階段的時代政治氣候,作品亦彰顯了他對西方藝術與文化的深刻認識。

    富藝斯特別鳴謝劉野協助指導此專文。

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6

Property from an Important Private European Collection

Liu Ye

Untitled

1997
signed and dated 'Ye [in Pinyin and Chinese] 97' on the reverse
acrylic and oil on canvas
90 x 90 cm. (35 3/8 x 35 3/8 in.)
Executed in 1997.

Estimate
HK$2,500,000 - 4,000,000 
€281,000-449,000
$321,000-513,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2018