Ayako Rokkaku - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 14, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "When painting alone in the studio it feels like playing- catching the energy ball between the canvas and myself."
    —Ayako Rokkaku
    Exploding in flurry of energetic, gestural marks in fantastical, rainbow hues, ARP11-011 is an exuberant expression of self-taught Japanese artist Ayako Rokkaku’s distinct practice. Applying paint directly to the canvas with her fingertips, Rokkaku generates incredible energy and immediacy in her compositions, references to Japanese Kawaii culture and a Superflat aesthetic mediated through Abstract Expressionist verve and an Impressionistic sensitivity to light and colour. Recreating the joy and spontaneity of childhood creativity, Rokkaku works quickly and intuitively across a range of mediums, explaining ‘I don’t feel like I’m really painting unless my hands are in direct contact with the paint. It’s more fun that way – using your hands, painting with your whole body.’i


    Colours In my Hand


    Engaging directly with a history of painting as performance expressed in Yves Klein’s Anthropometries and Has Namuth’s 1950 documentation of Jackson Pollock, Rokkaku developed a solo presentation with Kunsthal Rotterdam in 2011 which foreground performative and participatory elements. Moving her studio into Kunsthal’s ‘Daylight Hall’ for three weeks, Rokakku created ‘live paintings’ in situ for Colours In My Hand, watched by visitors and a live webcam feed. As well as large murals and smaller works on cardboard which have become particularly associated with the artist, Rokkaku also covered canvases with her light-filled visions full of flower fields, populated by the figure of the young girl who acts as something of an interlocutor between the viewer and the fantastical worlds brought to life in her paintings. Forming part of this unusual exhibition, ARP11-011 brings the performative and painterly aspects of Rokkaku’s practice together to dazzling effect.


    Ayako Rokkaku: An artist with the world at her fingertips, filmed as part of her 2011 exhibition Colours in My Hand at Kunsthalle Rotterdam.


    Verging on the edge of abstraction, the swirling forms and colours coalesce into impressionistically rendered flowers in vibrant shades of fuchsia and violet that directly recall the fascination with the natural world obsessively captured by French Impressionist Claude Monet. Drawn at a young age to the formal qualities of late 19th century French painting and the studied contrasts of light and shadow developed by Jean- François Millet, Rokkaku ‘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 Applied directly with her hands, thick streaks of impasto shift and merge across the expanse of the canvas, a virtuoso expression of light, colour, and movement developed in dialogue with a lineage of expressionistic abstraction that combines formal elements from Claude Monet, Cy Twombly, Joan Mitchell, and Jackson Pollock. Featuring the familiar motifs of Rokkaku’s endearing child figure set within a floral expanse ARP11-011 seems to bear a direct relationship to Monet’s masterful paintings of shifting light and weather patterns observed in his beloved gardens at Giverny, exercises in abstraction that reached their full expression in the Nymphaea series that occupied his final years.


    Claude Monet, The Artist’s Garden at Giverny, 1900, Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Image: Bridgeman Images
    Claude Monet, The Artist’s Garden at Giverny, 1900, Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Image: Bridgeman Images


    Appealing directly to our senses and possessing remarkable gestural energy, ARP11-011 is a stirring example of Rokkaku’s signature aesthetic, and her unique fusion of performance and painting which has established her as one of Japan’s leading contemporary artists. Aside from its painterly virtuosity and incredible sense of colour, light, and vitality, ARP11-011 also exemplifies Rokkuku’s ability to transport us into her wonderful world, and back to the joyful abandon of childhood. As the artist lyrically puts it: ‘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. […] Children can get completely absorbed in their pictures. I think maybe my pictures help to remind people of how they felt back then.’iii


    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 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 König Galerie, Berlin in 2021 and her institutional show with the Chiba Prefectural Museum of Art, Magic Hand in the same year. Most recently, Rokkaku enjoyed her first solo show in the United Kingdom with her exhibition Imagination for Flying Adventure at König London.


    i Ayako Rokkaku, quoted in ‘Rokkaku Ayako: An Artist with the World At Her Fingertips’, Nippon, 3 October 2011, online
    ii Ayako Rokkaku, quoted in Arjen Ribbens, ‘Playing with colors, small discoveries’, (exh. cat.), Amstelveen, 2019, p. 65.
    iii Ayako Rokkaku, quoted in ‘Rokkaku Ayako: An Artist with the World At Her Fingertips’, Nippon, 3 October 2011, online.

    • Provenance

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

    • Exhibited

      Kunsthal Rotterdam, Colours In My Hand. Ayako Rokkaku, 23 June – 21 August 2011



signed and dated ‘2011 Rokkaku Ayako’ [in Japanese] on the reverse; inscribed ‘ARP11-011’ on the stretcher
acrylic on canvas
130 x 130 cm (51 1/8 x 51 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2011.

Full Cataloguing

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £296,100

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4060

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 14 October 2022