Ayako Rokkaku - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Thursday, March 30, 2023 | Phillips
  • "I love painting on something that is much bigger than I am. Moving to and fro between the corners of such a huge canvas makes me feel as if the colours are flowing through my body."
    — Ayako Rokkaku


    Created in 2007 on site at her exhibition, Walkin’ Around Clouds with Galerie Delaive, Ayako Rokkaku’s Untitled is one of the artist’s earliest and largest works that has come to auction. Featuring the artist’s signature young female protagonist with bright curious eyes, Untitled’s little girl is brought to life with just acrylic and the hands of the artist, as she dances within a whirlwind of dazzling colours and soft flower petals.


    Entirely self-taught, Rokkaku’s artistic practice is anchored through the artist’s touch – she developed her finger-painting technique when she was only 20 years old. Dancing across large canvases, Rokkaku smears dazzling swirls of colour directly with her bare hands and fingertips, capturing the speed and verve in which she creates.



    The artist creating the current lot at Galerie Delaive, 2007


    Painted live during the artist’s first collaboration with Gallery Delaive in Amsterdam in 2007, the present work is the largest canvases to be created as a performance during Rokkaku’s solo exhibition titled Walkin’ Around Clouds. In manipulating acrylic paint with her fingers, Rokkaku displays a visceral approach in painting and a willingness to let the audience participate in her world and witness her creative process. Through this performance and this exhibition, she firmly established herself as the most exciting artist to watch in the contemporary art world.


    Smearing and spreading paints on a gigantic canvas with her fingers and hands, the petite artist enjoys creating large pieces of work, which creates a sharp visual contrast when she is painting on a canvas in-situ. According to Rokkaku, her choice to work on such scale of canvases also allows her to feel more connected to life itself, as the excitement of the process pumps tides of energy through the veins in her body, which in turn translates onto the canvas into whimsical landscapes of living colour.



    Ayako Rokkaku creating the current work in-situ at the Walkin’ Around Clouds exhibition, 2007
    © Gallery Delaive, Amsterdam


    Painting through Intuition 


    Jackson Pollock, Number 16, 1950
    Artwork: © 2023 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


    Inspired by fellow Abstract and Expressionist artists, Jackson Pollock, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Cy Twombly, Rokkaku felt the creative energy from their expressive paintings. Pioneering the Abstract Expressionist movement, Jackson Pollock conveys emotions and ideas through non-representational forms, as seen in Number 16 (1950) where the artist covers the canvas with unrecognized acrylic subjects in assorted colours. Pollock recognized that the major force in creating art is having an unconscious mind, where the process leads by spontaneity and improvisations – a process Rokkaku whole heartedly agrees with. Highly intuitive, Rokkaku refrains from being confined by rules of conventional painting, immersing herself fully during her painting process without an underlying plan. This allows her motifs to develop during the process, the act of painting becomes performative:


    “I don’t feel I’m really painting unless my hands are in direct contact with the paint. It’s more fun that way.”
    — Ayako Rokkaku


    Detail of the present lot


    During her live performance, Rokkaku used part of her own fingertips as an agency to bring the little girl to life, creating a floral landscape that brims with energy and movement yet is simultaneously soft and loose in its execution. Wearing a pink dress that compliments the flora and fauna surrounding her, the current protagonist draws parallel to the leading character Chihiro Ogino in the Japanese animation movie Spirited Away (2001), in the scene where she was also passing through fields of blooming flowers.



      Film still of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, 2001
    Image: AJ Pics / Alamy Stock Photo


    Rokkaku utilises an aesthetic that directly references the Japanese anime style, which also features adorable characters with enormous, shining eyes. Her work blends divergent styles from varying corners of the art world, while remaining childlike, youthful, and innocent – a headspace in which the artist tries to return to: ‘When I’m painting, I try to get in touch with the way I felt as a child – to get back to my starting point, if you like. Everyone goes through a stage of being totally into drawing and painting when they are small. Children can get completely absorbed in their pictures. I think maybe my pictures help to remind people of how they felt back then.” i



    Collector’s Digest 


    Ayako Rokkaku, Untitled, 2019
    Sold by Phillips Hong Kong for HK$8,115,000, 22 June 2022


    • 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 a 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 has 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. 



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

    • Provenance

      Gallery Delaive, Amsterdam
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007

    • Exhibited

      Amsterdam, Gallery Delaive, Walkin' Around Clouds, 3-27 February 2007



signed and dated '2007 Rokkaku Ayako [in Japanese]' lower right
acrylic on canvas
303 x 190 cm. (119 1/4 x 74 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2007.

Full Cataloguing

HK$4,000,000 - 5,000,000 

Contact Specialist

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 30 March 2023