Christine Ay Tjoe - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Tuesday, November 29, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “It’s important that we look outside of our inner selves and see other living things—not just humans, but other creatures”
    — Christine Ay Tjoe

    Executed in 2001, Tanah Mati is an early work by Christine Ay Tjoe, who is internationally recognised as Indonesia’s most prominent female contemporary artist. Translating to ‘dead earth’, the composition beautifully showcases Ay Tjoe’s mastery in conveying human forms through minimalistic lines and depth of shading, which the artist achieves through a unique blend mixed media on canvas in a monochromatic colour scheme. As Ay Tjoe explains, ‘By using minimal colours, I can be more intimate with the object I am trying to highlight.’i


    Although the starting point for her paintings can be spontaneous, such as a single line or dark smudge, Ay Tjoe’s work is influenced by a wide range of sources that are as diverse as the unconventional life and work of German graphic artist Horst Janssen, or the spirituality of the Dalai Lama. She works in a spontaneous and intuitive way during periods of intense concentration, using a gestural approach characterised by strong structure, colour and line, which is at once charged yet delicate. 


    In the artist’s studio
    Photo Courtesy of Martin Westlake for Tatler Hong Kong

    In the foreground of the present work, a figure with a bowed head nurses her baby, whom she cradles tightly with the baby tucked away in the nook of their mother’s arm. An older child and young woman are depicted in the background of the work, portrayed with elongated, thin limbs and wispy, dark hair. As alluded to by Tanah Mathi’s title, there is a tinge of gloominess conveyed by the composition, as ideas of worry and famine come to mind. At the same time, however, as Ay Tjoe is not only concerned with physical states but also the different facets of one’s emotions and spirituality, the painting can equally be read as a metaphor for the fundamental themes of human nature, including the battles that occur between our innermost thoughts and deep psychological fears.


    Born in 1973 in Bandung, Indonesia where she continues to live and work, Ay Tjoe began her career making graphic works, specifically intaglio dry point prints and then textiles. Her diverse oeuvre now encompasses painting, drawing and sculpture as well as large-scale installations.


    Ay Tjoe has been honoured with solo exhibitions at prestigious venues around the world, including a major mid-career retrospective at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan (2018). The artist was most recently the subject of a solo show at White Cube in Hong Kong in 2021.


    i Christine Ay Tjoe, quoted in Allie Biwas, ‘Christine Ay Tjoe: ‘I will always treat every medium as paper and pencil’’, Studio International, 12 December 2018, online

    • Provenance

      Private Collection
      Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 6 October 2009, lot 357
      Private Collection
      Christie's, Hong Kong, 25 November 2012, lot 479
      Private Collection
      Borobudur Fine Art Auction, Singapore, 19 January 2014, lot 257
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


Tanah Mati

signed 'Christine' lower right; further signed and dated 'AY TJOE CHRISTINE 2001' on the stretcher
mixed media on canvas
100 x 80 cm. (39 3/8 x 31 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2001.

Full Cataloguing

HK$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for HK$252,000

Contact Specialist

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2022