Ayako Rokkaku - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Wednesday, June 22, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “It was as if it was full of light and wind, explosive and calm at the same time. The whole room was electrified by that depiction of energy.”
    Ayako Rokkaku


    Smearing dazzling swirls of colour directly with her fingertips onto the canvas, Japanese artist Ayako Rokkaku creates captivating works that features her iconic motif of adolescent girls, drawing inspiration from Japanese Kawaii culture as well as Western masters such as Claude Monet. Utilising a wide range of colours, shaped canvases and mediums such as carboard and handmade wooden vases, Rokkaku’s work is characterised by its rich hues and palpable energy, created through a direct application of paint to the canvas with the artist’s bare hands, introducing a playful, almost performative aspect to her oeuvre: ‘I just remember this squishy, squelchy mess of paint all over my hands... I don’t feel I’m really painting unless my hands are in direct contact with the paint. It’s more fun that way.’i


    Created in 2019, Untitled is beautifully emblematic of Ayako Rokkaku’s cartoon-like painterly aesthetic with her signature rainbow colour palette. First shown at the Museum Jan van der Togt, Amstelvee, in Netherlands the year it was created, Untitled (2019) features an endearing little girl dressed in pastel pink, holding cotton candy in her right hand and glancing to the side with a shy, mischievous smile.



    Installation view of the current lot (centre) at Museum Jan van der Togt,
    Fumble in colors, tiny discoveries, 2019
    Courtesy of the Artist’s Studio


    Landscapes of Living Colour


    A whirlwind of fantastical colour and texture, layers upon layers of impasto build atop of each other in Untitled, coalescing into a fairytale landscape that blurs the distinction between the subject and the abstract, foreground and background. The edges of the young girl’s pink dress seem to blend seamlessly into the flora and fauna behind, as if swaying gently along in the wind. Expressing a child-like carelessness and innocent curiosity, our protagonist is wearing pink socks that matches her dress, shoes nowhere to be seen. Treating the world as her playground, the young girl is seen frolicking within the flowers with a unique zest for life, bringing along her blue elephant friend to accompany her on her escapades through the vivid, whimsical meadow.



    Detail of the present lot


    At 13 years old, Rokakku had stumbled upon the idyllic, rural landscapes of French painter, Jean- François Millet. Inspired by the stark contrast of light and shadow that typifies Millet’s painterly aesthetic, Rokkaku incorporates the same techniques into her work, creating similar landscapes with fantastical colour: ‘I became aware, for the first time, that reality and feelings can find expression in paint in a way that is not possible in words.’ ii



    Jean-François Millet, Spring, 1868-1873
    Collection of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris


    Evoking formal elements of impressionism, Rokkaku employs a technique of carefree mark-making. Thickly applied streaks of impasto commingle and combine into vast, fantastical worlds, each stroke rippling beneath the artist’s fingers. Inspired by artists such as ‘Claude Monet, Henry Matisse, Cy Twombly, and Jackson Pollock’ iii, Rokkaku seeks a sense of expression and freedom in her dreamlike landscapes. Sharing similar tones and subject matter, Rokkaku’s Untitled is comparable to Monet’s Le Jardin de Monet à Giverny, both creating floral landscapes that brims with energy and movement, yet is soft and loose in their execution.



    Claude Monet, Monet’s Garden at Giverny (Le Jardin de Monet à Giverny), 1895
    E.G. Bührle Collection, Zürich


    The Artist’s Hand


    Intuitive, free and whimsical, Rokkaku’s idiosyncratic oeuvre defies conventional techniques of art creation, as the artist developed her finger-painting approach independently as a self-taught artist. The artist first discovered the magic of painting with her own hands when she was 20 years old, whilst participating in an event for amateur artists in Tokyo. At the time, she had prepared numerous tools to paint with: ‘I was painting on the used cardboard on the floor with acrylic paint on my hand and it came to me. I felt that I was able to leave a trace of something like an improvisational and primitive impulse on the cardboard’. iii



    Ayako Rokkaku creating in-situ at the Venice Biennale, 2015
     © Gallery Delaive


    The act of painting directly with one’s body is a technique shared by other artists such as Amoako Boafo and Kazuo Shiraga. As one of the founders of the Gutai art movement in Japan, Shiraga’s practice is rooted in a freedom of expression and creativity. At times fastening himself to a rope above the painting, Shiraga spreads thick mounds of paint with his feet, fulling immersing himself into the creative process, as if creating the work through dance, unrestrained and fully engaged with the physically of the work.


    Sharing the same passion for a performative and immersive creative process, Rokkaku paints free hand; with a preference to work on large canvases, giving her room to lean in or dash across to the opposite end of the canvas, resulting in lyrical, hypnotic paintings where colours swirl intricately around each other to form a sweet symphony.



    Left: Kazuo Shiraga, Zuisouhen, 1986
    Sold by Phillips, Hong Kong, 24 November 2019 for HK$9,750,000 (Premium)

     Right: Amoako Boafo, Golden Frames, 2018
    Sold by Phillips, Hong Kong, 29 November 2021 for HK$3,024,000 (Premium)


    Similarly, Ghanian artist Amoako Boafo’s distinctive oeuvre places emphasis on the artist’s touch, as he also chooses to paint with his fingertips. Embedded into the very flesh of his subjects in his paintings, Boafo’s fingerprints are stamped within each streak of thick impasto. However, instead of focusing on creating movement and energy, Boafo’s mark-making technique aims to find a new way to represent and celebrate Black identity as he literally leaves imprints of his identity within art history.


    As a powerful means of artistic expression, Rokkaku, Shiraga and Boafo each devised different approaches to paint with their bodies. Each visible, tangible mark brings the artist’s touch to life, emphasizing their presence within the painting and the painting process itself, bridging the gap between the viewer, artwork, and the artist.



    Collector’s Digest


    Born 1982 in Chiba, Japan, Ayako Rokkaku began her artistic career in 2002, during her early twenties. Rokkaku quickly established herself on the international art scene after exhibiting at the 9th edition of the Geisai art fair in 2006 and was awarded the prestigious Akio Goto Prize, founded by Kaikai KiKi Studio which is led by art world giant, Takashi Murakami.


    In 2018, Phillips Hong Kong was the first to bring Rokkaku to the eyes of the market with selling exhibition, Sam Francis, Walasse Ting & Ayako Rokkaku: Perpetual Colours, selling out before the first day of the opening.


    Since then, demand for the artist had exploded internationally. Rokkaku’s works are included in the permanent collections of the Powerlong Art Museum, China; Sehwa Museum of Art, South Korea;  the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan; and the Voorlinden Museum, Netherlands, amongst others. Rokkaku’s recent exhibitions include solo presentation, Born in the Fluffy Journey with Konig Galerie, Berlin (2021) and her institutional show with the Chiba Prefectural Museum of Art, Magic Hand (2021). Rokkaku currently lives and works in multiple cities, travelling between Porto, Berlin, Tokyo, and Amsterdam. She is represented by Gallery Delaive, Amsterdam.



     The artist speaking about her practice and inspiration behind her works, 2020

    Video courtesy Chiba Prefectural Museum of Art



    Ayako Rokkaku, quoted in ‘Rokkaku Ayako: An Artist with the World at Her Fingertips’, nippon.com, 3 October 2011, online

    ii Ayako Rokkaku, quoted in Arjen Ribbens, ‘Playing with colors, small discoveries’, exh. cat., Museum Jan van der Togt Amstelveen, 2019, p. 65

    iii Ayako Rokkaku, quoted in 'Ayako Rokkaku: The Spirit of the Artist’, Autre Magazine, 15 February 2022, online

    • Provenance

      Gallery Delaive, Amsterdam
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Amstelveen, Museum Jan van der Togt, Playing with colors, small discoveries, 8 June - 25 August 2019, pp. 8, 23, 24-25, 144 (illustrated)

Property from a Distinguished Private European Collection



signed and dated '2019 Rokkaku Ayako [in Japanese]' lower right
acrylic on canvas
121 x 190 cm. (47 5/8 x 74 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for HK$8,115,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 22 June 2022