Ben Sledsens - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Tuesday, June 21, 2022 | Phillips
  • “My paintings are built up in a narrative with an open beginning and end. For me, it is very important that the viewer can compose his own story and recognise himself in the characters. The works seem to take place in an alternative universe, a kind of utopia, where fantasy collides with my daily life with a strong nod to certain elements and themes from art history.”
    — Ben Sledsens

    Having recently made his auction debut at Phillips in New York on 18 November 2021 with his work Bear in the Deep Woods (2018-2019), Belgian artist Ben Sledsens makes his auction debut in Asia with the present work, Two Bathers. Executed in 2016, this painting captures a moment of tranquillity, transporting viewers deep into the midst of a lush, mystical jungle captured at dawn or twilight. Densely layered trees loom over the subjects at the centre of the work, framing the composition with varying shades of green detailed by the texture of leaves and branches. A meandering river runs through the middle, which beautifully reflects the landscape with a mirror-like precision, as well as the two nude forms who appear to become one with their surroundings.


    Matthew Wong, Nature’s Church (2017)
    Sold by Phillips, Hong Kong on 30 November 2021 for HK$9,204,000 



    Drawing from the aesthetics of Post-Impressionism and early Modernism, Sledsens explores intimate instances in his chromatically brilliant works, which further nod to aspects of classic genre painting. Indeed, a constellation of art historical references are evident within the present painting— from the serene pastoral landscapes of Paul Cézanne, to the vivid Fauvist palettes of Henri Matisse, and the jewel-toned, luscious scenes of Gustav Klimt. The exotic jungle landscapes of Henri Rousseau too, particularly come to mind, for the shared flat yet vivid painterly style that can be found in both artists' work and is reminiscent of the illustrations found in children’s books.


    "My creative process is very slow. I work on a painting for about 3 to 4 weeks. For my paintings I use acrylic and oil paint, I love how these two types of paint play with each other. Acrylic is matte and oil paint is more intense and that combination creates a good dialogue.” — Ben Sledsens



    Henri Rousseau, The Dream, 1910
    Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York


    Combining and reworking these influences in his paintings, whilst Sledsens’ dream universe plays on a rich tradition of art historical precedents, a favourable link can also be made between his work and that of his contemporary, the late Hong Kong-Canadian painter Matthew Wong, whom too, formed fantastical vistas populated with small figures who conjure wider narratives of utopian idyll. However, whereas Wong’s figures easily disguise themselves within their environment, Sledsens’ take centre stage, living and interacting with each other in his painted lanscapes.


    "I have a great love for nature. Nature is an infinite source of inspiration; it is very changeable and unpredictable, which gives great freedom to possibilities.” — Ben Sledsens



    Sledsens is currently based in Antwerp, Belgium, where he trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. The artist’s oeuvre has been shown at numerous solo and group exhibitions, the most recent one being an ongoing solo show at CAC Málaga, Spain. His paintings are also displayed in the permanent collections of institutions like the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp in Belgium and Fundación Canaria para el Desarrollo de la Pintura in Spain.




    The artist in his studio


    • Provenance

      Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Two Bathers

signed with the artist's initials 'B.S.' lower right; further signed, titled, inscribed and dated 'BEN SLEDSENS 2016 LONDON "TWO BATHERS"' on the reverse
oil, acrylic and oil crayon on canvas
199.8 x 170.2 cm. (78 5/8 x 67 in.)
Executed in 2016, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist and issued by Tim Van Laere Gallery.

Full Cataloguing

HK$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for HK$2,016,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 21 June 2022