Danica Lundy - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, March 2, 2023 | Phillips
  • “I want a painting to be able to read like a poem or a nightmare, to evoke a young lifetime’s worth of cultural gunk, great paintings, friction, disillusionment, jubilation, heartache […] I want a painting that I can be totally consumed by.” 
    —Danica Lundy
    Canadian-born artist Danica Lundy creates sensational paintings which palpably arrest our senses. Large in scale and rendered with a certain tension between the real and surreal, her canvases viscerally confront and crowd the viewer, forcing them to consider the intricacies and realities of the lived human experience. Bonefire is one such picture, its lurid imagery as unsettling as it is intriguing. Fragmented limbs and body parts are thrown together in this densely crowded composition, the enlarged and brightly lit face to the left recalling the monolithic sculptures of Easter Island and offset by the claw-like hands pulling at the corners of the composition and threatening to drag us into the picture’s depths.


    [left] Michelangelo Buonarroti, Pieta, early 1540s, study for the Colonna Pieta, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. Image: © Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum / Bridgeman Images
    [right] Detail of the present work

    Renaissance drawings were the first artistic reference point in Lundy’s practise. From a young age, borrowing her father’s sculpture books, she would avidly imitate the drawings of masters such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti, ultimately leading to her own painterly obsession with the human body. And like these masters, drawing provides the backbone to her artistic practise. Using source material such as personal experience, myth, song, sensations such as ‘the smell of grass’, ‘good light’, or an excursion into her past, the artist begins with a ‘vivid feeling that manifests itself nebulously’ as black ball point pen interrogates paper to create her initial visions for each canvas.i Her detailed drawings then evolve into less intricately linear brushstrokes, softer in nature, which diverge from the Renaissance ambition to scientifically depict the human anatomy and focus more on portraying the sensorial experience of what it is like to inhabit the human body.


    Otto Dix, Pragrestrasse, 1920, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart. Image: Scala, Florence/bpk, Bildagentur fuer Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Berlin, Artwork: © DACS 2023
    Otto Dix, Prager Strasse, 1920, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart. Image: Scala, Florence/bpk, Bildagentur fuer Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Berlin, Artwork: © DACS 2023

    In this way, her works bear comparison to early 20th century artists such as Otto Dix who manipulated the human body to evoke emotion and physical sensation. A tangle of distorted limbs and mechanical appendages which visually recalls Bonefire's dense composition, Dix’s Prager Strasse is a powerful example of his close examination of the interpenetration of man and machine as the limits of the human were blown apart under the conditions of trench warfare. Like Dix, Lundy makes expressive use of contorted physical form for a heightened emotional impact, limbs seem twisted into painful extremes and the lurid palette of greens, purples, and pinks here touches on the more visceral, violent treatment of Dix’s figures. However, where Dix’s painting takes on more explicitly political dimensions in its scathing observations of post-war German society, Lundy’s focus is at once more personal and universal, detailing the trials, tribulations, and changes that come with adolescence.

    “Teenage experience establishes sharp sensory precedents. I want to dig into a time that is viscous, palpable and ineffably vivid, and make paintings that are equally so. The very act of painting lends itself to the nuances of a sweaty, confusing time, you know?”
    —Danica Luncy

    Encapsulating multiple aspects of the teenage experience, Bonefire is a penetrating polyphonic portrait of a generation. Unapologetically referencing the painful act of growing up, Lundy’s powerful cascade of distorted faces and figures draw us into the same agitated state of suspension. To the right, monstrous green hands strip a cindered marshmallow, revealing a viscous, sticky core. Above this, a pierced hot dog, another nostalgic image from juvenile life, is mirrored to the left by a hand which instead holds a lit cigarette, childhood innocence awkwardly swapped for experiments in a kind of performative adulthood. Applying areas of intense light as a kind of visual ‘bait’, Lundy lures our eye into the pictorial space only to expose a gloomier reality.ii While the candle flame to the left of the composition might initially draw our eye, we quickly discern the clutching fingers scratching at the lighter’s flint, powerfully capturing the frightening unknowns that we have to navigate in growing up, and the clumsy, sometimes self-destructive acts that we find ourselves pursuing in order to fit in.


    A claustrophobic multitude of crowded figures, limbs, and alcoholic receptacles form a painted surface which fluctuates between light and dark, flashes of realism and more grotesque distortions, just as our turbulent teenage years are disrupted by these fast transitions. Suggestively sexual elements including a lifted skirt and the ambiguous placement of hands wrapped around a girl’s ponytail in the lower portion of the canvas generate an anxious, highly charged quality as this sudorific canvas invites us to comprehend our own bodily experiences from a new, embodied perspective as Lundy asks, ‘what it is to be in a body, and out of a body, and everything in between.’iii


    In the Gallery: Danica Lundy | White Cube


    Collector’s Digest

    • In addition to mounting her first solo exhibition in London with White Cube in September 2022, Danica Lundy has exhibited internationally, realising solo exhibitions in Canada, Italy, South Africa, Germany, Belgium and the United States.

    • The present work, Bonefire, was included in her solo exhibition The Ghost I Made You Be which took place at C+N Canepaneri, Milan, in 2018 and borrowed a phrase from a popular Leonard Cohen song, 'Treaty'. Examples of her work are included in the permanent collections of the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, Dallas Museum of Art and Sydney Modern Project, New South Wales.

    • Phillip’s currently holds the record for a work of Lundy’s sold at auction after she debuted at Phillips New York in November 2022.


    i Danica Lundy, quoted in "Danica Lundy", Artoday, February 2019, online.

    ii Danica Lundy, quoted in Daniel Maidman, “Interview: Danica Lundy and the Vivid Scene”, White Hot Magazine, 2018, online.

    iii Danica Lundy, quoted in ‘In the Gallery: Danica Lundy | White Cube’, White Cube, 2022, online.

    • Provenance

      C+N Canepaneri, Milan
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Milan, C+N Canepaneri, Danica Lundy: The Ghost I Made You Be, 2 March - 6 April 2018, p. 11 (illustrated; partially illustrated, front cover; partially illustrated, back cover)
      Milan, C+N Canepaneri, Rewind, 10 January - 15 February 2019

    • Literature

      Rossella Moratto, ‘Danica Lundy C+N Canepaneri / Milan’, Flash Art, 28 March 2018 (illustrated, online)
      Angela Cowan, ‘The Ghost I Made You Be’, Boulevard Magazine, Spring 2018, p. 30 (illustrated)
      ‘Interview: Danica Lundy’, Artoday, 2 February 2019 (illustrated, online)



signed, titled and dated ‘danica lundy 2017 ‘BONEFIRE’’ on the reverse
oil on canvas
152.5 x 183 cm (60 x 72 in.)
Painted in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

£65,000 - 85,000 

Sold for £107,950

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 2 March 2023