Series 2 No.10

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  • Provenance

    Serieuze Zaken Gallery, Amsterdam
    Private Collection, The Netherlands
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Berlin, Haus der Kulturen der Welt; Rotterdam, Kunsthal; Oxford, The Museum of Modern Art (presently Modern Art Oxford); Odense, Kunsthallen Brandts Klædefabrik; Roemer-und Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim, China Avant-Garde: Counter-Currents in Art and Culture, 30 January 1993 – 27 November 1994

  • Literature

    Jochen Noth, Kai Reschke and Wolfger Poehlmann eds., China Avant-Garde: Counter-Currents in Art and Culture, Berlin, 1994, p. 323
    Carol Lu, Living Like a Wild Dog: 1963-2008 Archival Exhibition of Fang Lijun, Taipei, 2009, p. 218 (illustrated)
    Endlessness of Life: 25 Years Retrospect of Fang Lijun, exh. cat., Taipei, 2009, p. 218 (illustrated)
    Peng Lu and Chun Liu, Fang Lijun: Works Catalogue, Beijing, 2010, p. 239 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Known for his depictions of rebellious bald-headed figures embodying the unique psychological state of a rising generation in modern China, Fang Lijun created Series 2 No. 10 in 1992, just as the artist was becoming critically renowned in the international art world as a leading figure of China’s new modern art movement. Responding to the trauma resulting from his having grown up during the Cultural Revolution, Fang creates works that engage with a profound sense of disenchantment and disillusionment affecting an entire generation especially following the aftermath of the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989. In the early 1990s, Fang was named by Li Xianting, an art critic and inventor of the term “Cynical Realism,” as a key figure of the movement. (J. Supangkat, ‘China Avant-Garde and Contemporary Art,’ in Fang L.J. and A. Ochs, Fang Lijun: Life Is Now [in conjunction with Fang Lijun's Solo Exhibition at the National Gallery, Jakarta, 10 May - 18 May 2006])Though the style of Cynical Realism has been characterised by a “mix of ennui and rogue humour,” Karen Smith accentuates that what sets Fang’s paintings apart, is his work being rooted in the human condition rather than in politics. (Ben Davidson quoted by K. MacMillan, ‘Fang Lijun: the Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar’ Artforum International, November 2007; K. Smith and M. Brouwer, Nine Lives: The Birth Of Avant-Garde Art In New China, 2010) His works created in 1992 in particular attracted global attention, earning him invitations to some of the most prestigious exhibitions including the 1993 and 1999 Venice Biennale and the 1994 São Paulo Biennial. Coming from a series of only eleven works, paintings from Series 2 have been collected by such key institutions as the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, and Fukuoka Art Museum, as well as by major private collectors.

    A work never before seen on the market, Series 2 No. 10 is from a series that very infrequently becomes available to potential collectors. Augmenting the rarity and singularity of this work, the present lot provides the only circumstance in which a painting from the much-admired 1992 series highlights the artist’s female acquaintance in the foreground as a keystone figure. Offering a plethora of visual information not present in other works from the series, this dynamic painting showcases the woman as a central figure with her palms pressed together beside her face showing a slightly provocative expression emphasised by her subtle smile and knowing eyes. With her long neck and elegantly reserved composure, she is flanked by two robust men, one laughing and the other smiling demurely, amidst a backdrop of rippling blue water dotted with three bald figures emerging from the ocean gasping for air.

    Modelled after the artist himself, imagery of the bald-headed figure whether yawning, grinning, or staring vacantly, have echoed throughout Fang’s works since 1989 as a symbol of popi, a term borrowed from a Chinese folk adage signifying a rogue or punk character. Critic Li Xianting examines Fang’s recurring shaved head motif in relation to Popi as “a solution towards internalised self-salvation,” a sentiment found throughout Chinese history especially during times of political restriction. (Li X.T., ‘The “Shaved Head POPI” Created by Fang Lijun,' in R. Malasch, P. Hovdenakk, and Li X.T., Fang Lijun, Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1998) Swaggering towards the viewer, a bald protagonist flamboyantly flaunts a brightly coloured and patterned swimsuit, fashion not depicted in other 1992 works, instilling not only a stark contrast to the conservative Cultural Revolution era uniforms of the past but also to the subdued blue or grey shirts donned by other characters in the series. Exclaiming cheerfully or beaming inanely, Fang’s bald-headed characters exemplify Fang’s translation of popi’s rebellious mockery into self-mockery, an emblem of personal escape from a system of meaning. The bald people swimming in Series 2 No. 10 furthermore foreshadow Fang’s acclaimed series of woodcuts created beginning in 1995 that re-investigate the imagery of the swimmer coming up for air.

    Though the image of the bald man lost on the seashore and avoiding eye contact with the water is a major theme in the 1992 paintings, the present lot is unlike many of its counterparts in that it reveals several figures who actually take the daring leap into the water, an audacious move that also prefigures Fang’s following blue Swimming series. Water first appears in Fang Lijun’s paintings as far back as 1984. However, Fang does not seriously engage with the topic until the 1990s during which the artist looked to the indeterminacy and malleability of the medium as a central theme in his painting. As an artist concerned with portraying humans and humanity in his work, the theme of water becomes a critical lens through which Fang views the boundlessness of human nature. “Water is very close to my understanding of human nature,” Fang asserts, it is “liquid, not rule-bound… uncertain, like human feelings. You can’t live without water… but too much water will drown you.” In the early 1990s, Fang himself was often seen swimming and experimenting with an underwater camera at the pool in the Friendship Hotel, where he lived for a period of time with his wife, and where many other artists convened. In contrast to the confrontational stance of the work created by the ’85 New Wave artists and the general idealism of the 1980s, the oblivious bald-headed figures illustrated in the present lot profoundly describe the bludgeoning sense of helplessness affecting the state of mind of Fang’s generation in China.

    The figures swimming in the background of Series 2 No. 10 reference both the artist’s personal interests in the leisure activity and the widely disseminated image of Mao Zedong who on July 16, 1966 took a vigorous and well-reported swim in the Yangtze River near the Wuhan bridge. This highly recognisable image of the Chairman swimming proliferated a statement implying Mao’s fearlessness and robust health—a counterattack against his critics—that also served as a call to China’s younger generation to dive into a political struggle to overthrow Mao’s opponents. (R. H. Solomon, ‘The Chairman’s Historic Swim,’ Time, September 27, 1999) What has consequently resulted from this call to action according to Fang, however, is a spiritually absent world denoted by the tsunami-like background of the present work, where the repetition of bald-headed figures in both the foreground and backdrop depict the stripping of individual identities, Fang’s visual metaphor for the Chinese people.

    Series 2 No. 10
    illuminates what is categorised as the artist’s “second period” of works (1990-1992), characterised by Fang’s preoccupation with juxtaposing imagery that circulated in China during the 1980s, and became recognisable on a nationwide scale through the controversial River Elegy (Heshang). Imagery within the television series broadcasted the cliché of a bifurcated vision of the old China versus the modern West. In contrast to Fang’s early paintings in which figures never leave the safety of the land or the protection of the Great Wall, Series 2 No. 10 depicts a shift towards a greater sense of openness and experimentation with several figures appearing before a commanding expanse of blue sea. Although Series 2 No. 10 expresses the sense of freedom permeating the works from this period, Fang’s ambiguous narrative and enclosed composition blocking any view of the horizon ultimately captures the anxious mood of a group of people who have been forced by Deng Xiaoping’s Open-Door policy program to look beyond the Great Wall at the vast stretches of an unfamiliar world. Though the foregrounding figures appear joyful, they nevertheless turn away from the ocean while their unsettlingly cropped and enlarged bodies expose the masked apprehensions of exploring the unknown.

    Fang Lijun's paintings stand out amongst other works by artists from his generation as he eschews narrative altogether. Though distinctive, Fang is still considered one of the earliest proponents of the Cynical Realist school- having participated in the milestone 1989 exhibition, China/Avant-Garde hosted at the National Art Museum of China, the country’s most important arts venue, even before his graduation from the Department of Printmaking at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. In 1993, the artist also participated in the ground-breaking exhibition, China’s New Art, Post 1989 in Hong Kong, the 45th Venice Biennale, and China/Avant-Garde in Berlin. Currently in the collection of Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, a related work to the present lot, Series 2 No. 2 (1991-2) furthermore made the cover of the New York Times Magazine. Fang quickly became internationally known, showing at the aforementioned international biennials and the pivotal exhibition Inside Out, curated by Gao Minglu, held jointly in New York City at the Asia Society and MoMA P.S. 1 in 1998-99. Fang Lijun has played a crucial role in the development of contemporary Chinese art, and so the study and discussion of his work will indisputably continue to have an impact on the future direction of art in China and beyond. (D. Eccher and Fang L.J., Fang Lijun: The precipice over the clouds, Milano: Charta, 2012)

  • Catalogue Essay

    方力鈞創造的光頭人物形象反叛乖張,是中國現代社會新興一代的獨特心理寫照。1992年的《系列二(之十)》就是其中一個例子,當時這位藝術家正在國際藝術界竄起,是中國新當代藝術運動的風頭人物。方力鈞生長於文革年代,那些震撼的經歷一直影響着他,因此他的作品總是散發一種冷眼旁觀的態度和幻滅感,這種心態曾經影響一整代中國人,而且在1989年天安門事件之後尤甚。1990年代初,藝評家栗憲庭首創 「玩世現實主義」一詞,稱方力鈞是此風潮的主要人物。(Jim Supangkat,<中國前衛及當代藝術>,方力鈞及阿歷山大·奧克斯,《Fang Lijun: Life Is Now》,雅加達國家美術館方力鈞個人展覽,2006年5月10-18日) 雖然玩世現實主義的風格往往「混雜無聊、潑皮幽默」,卡倫·史密斯特別強調方力鈞的藝術表現與眾不同之處,是他的作品植根於人的生存環境,而不是政治。(引述賓·大衛森,卡伊·麥米蘭,<方力鈞:貝爾馬的藝術和創意實驗室>,載於《Artforum International》,2007年11月,2018年3月27日登入;卡倫·史密斯與瑪麗安·寶華著,《九條命:新中國前衛藝術的誕生》 , 2010年)方力鈞在1992年創作的作品尤其引起國際關注,多次獲邀參與藝術展覽盛會,如1993年及1999年威尼斯雙年展、1994年聖保羅雙年展。德國科隆路德維希博物館、日本福岡美術館等各地著名博物館與重要私人收藏亦有典藏這個系列的作品。

    《系列二(之十)》首次現身於藝術市場,同系列作品亦極少釋出。這幅作品的視覺元素非常豐富,前景是以藝術家的女性友人為主角,此構圖在同系列中並未曾有過。女子站在畫面中央,雙手合十捧在臉側,秋波暗送,面露淺笑,頗有一絲挑逗意味。她的脖子纖長,身姿秀麗,站在兩個粗獷男子中間,其中一個在大笑,另一個假裝羞怯地微笑,各人身後的背景是一片泛著漣漪的藍色水域,有三個光頭人物從水裡冒出頭來呼吸。

    方力鈞按照自己的樣子塑造出光頭形象,他們或在打呵欠、咧嘴嬉笑、雙目無神地盯著某處,這些形象自1989年開始反複出現在他的作品中,是「潑皮」的象徵。「潑皮」源自中國民間俗語,意指一些玩世不恭或流氓的低俗作風。方力鈞反複表現這些光頭人物,藝術評論家栗憲庭將這與「潑皮」聯上關係,認為這是「一種內心自我救贖的方法」,這種情感在中國歷史上不鮮見,尤其是在政治壓抑的時期。(栗憲庭,《方力鈞創造的光頭潑皮》,羅伯·馬拉殊,佩·賀丹納克,栗憲庭,《方力鈞》,阿姆斯特丹市立博物館,1998年)畫中其中一個光頭男子穿着鮮豔花俏的泳褲,大搖大擺地走向觀者,這個形象並未出現在其他1992年的作品中,這不僅與文革時代趨向一致的保守服裝形成強烈對比,也與系列裡其他作品的人物所穿的藍色或灰色衣服相差甚大。這些光頭人物通常在歡呼振奮、或咧嘴傻笑,可見方力鈞將原本反叛、憤世嫉俗的潑皮形象,轉化成自嘲,象徵個人渴望逃避的意義。在《系列二(之十) 》裡,游泳的光頭人物預示方力鈞在1995年開始創作的木版畫,這個系列從另一個角度表現泳者浮上水面呼吸的形象,在藝術界普遍獲得好評。

    1992年一系列作品中的光頭男子,大多是在海邊遊蕩,而且眼睛都不望向水面。這幅作品與其他《系列二》不同之處,是畫中幾個人物都浸在水中,這勇敢的舉動預示了之後的「藍色游泳」系列。早於1984年,水開始出現在方力鈞的油畫作品裡。不過,直至1990年代他才開始認真探討這個題材,他看到了水的不確定性和柔順伸展性,並以此為創作的中心主題。方力鈞致力通過作品表現人類和人性,他以水為透視鏡,觀察到人性的無限本質。「水很接近我對人性的理解」,方力鈞指出它是「流動的,不受規條所限……不確定,像人的感覺。人不能離開水而活……但太多水會淹沒人。」(引述方力鈞,《1998 No. 2》作品專題文章,刊登於蘇富比,當代藝術,2012年4月2日,香港)在1990年代初,方力鈞與妻子有一段時間住在友誼賓館,許多藝術家也會在這裡聚集。他經常在賓館裡的游泳池游泳,或帶著水底相機在水中試驗。1980年代的中國社會整體上瀰漫着一股理想主義,而「85新潮」藝術家的作品大多立場鮮明、持反抗態度。方力鈞的光頭人物卻深刻地表現出一種越來越逼人的無助感,這種不安的心態影響著方力鈞那一整代的中國人。

    《系列二(之十)》背景中游泳的人物,既反映方力鈞個人對游泳的愛好,也暗指一幅流傳甚廣的毛澤東照片——1966年7月16日,毛澤東在武漢大橋旁的長江暢泳,被媒體廣泛報導。在這幅著名的照片中,毛主席年屆高齡仍在長江游泳,宣示其無所畏懼的精神,及其體魄壯健,以抗擊那些批評他的人,順道號召年輕一代群起進行政治鬥爭,打倒毛澤東的反對者。(理查德 H. 所羅門,〈毛主席游泳的歷史一刻〉,《時代雜誌》,1999年9月27日,2018年4月11日登入, http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2054250,00.html.) 然而在方力鈞眼中,這次號召行動的結果,只是突顯了一個精神缺失的世界,猶如這幅作品中海嘯般的汪洋背景。在前景和背景上重複出現的光頭人物,代表被剝奪的個人身份——這個視覺寓言,實質上就是中國人生存狀態的寫照。

    《系列二(之十)》是方力鈞的「第二階段」作品(1990-1992年),此時期作品的主要特色是呈現一些對比鮮明的影像,它們因一部極具爭議的政論電視節目《河殤》而在八十年代流行全國。這部電視片系列展現了舊中國與現代西方的強烈視覺反差。方力鈞的早期作品裡的人物從未離開過土地或長城的包圍, 但《系列二(之十)》卻展示一種較開放的態度,藝術家開始將幾個人物佈置在廣闊無邊的藍色海洋前。《系列二(之十)》表達的自由氣氛,雖然在同一時期的其他作品亦可見,但方力鈞對人物的敘述曖昧不明,構圖也充滿壓迫感——擁擠的空間使觀畫者無法看見海平面,結果倒是捕捉了一種人民普遍的焦慮情緒。這種焦慮源於鄧小平的改革開放政策,迫使國人將目光放在長城之外,移到一個廣闊的陌生世界上去。前景的人物表面看似歡樂無憂,但卻背對著海洋,只露出半截的龐大身軀暴露了他們對於探索未知的疑懼。

    方力鈞在同輩藝術家中顯得與別不同,原因是他的作品不作任何敘述。方力鈞的藝術風格鮮明獨特,但他仍被視為玩世現實主義流派的先鋒,而且參與過1989年的「中國前衛藝術」展。這場具有里程碑意義的展覽在全國頂級藝術場地——國家美術館舉行。當年方力鈞參展的時候,仍是北京中央美術學院的版畫系學生。1993年,方力鈞參與多場展覽,包括破天荒的香港「後八九中國新藝術」展、第45屆威尼斯雙年展、柏林「中國/前衛藝術」展。與本畫同系列的《系列二(之二)》(1991-92年作)目前由阿姆斯特丹市立博物館收藏,更曾經登上《紐約時代》雜誌封面。之後,方力鈞在國際間聲名鵲起,除了參與上述的雙年展,也參與了一場由高名潞策展、規模龐大的1998-99年海外中國現代藝術展「Inside Out」,該展由紐約亞洲協會和P.S.1當代藝術中心合辦。方力鈞在中國當代藝術發展史上發揮著重要角色,研究和討論他的作品,對於中國藝術發展的走向無疑繼續有著深刻的影響。(丹尼奧·艾克與方力鈞,《方力鈞:雲上的絕壁》,Milano: Charta,2012年)

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13

Pioneers of Modernism: A Selection from The Scheeres Collection

Series 2 No.10

1992-1993
signed and dated 'Fang Lijun [in Chinese] 1992-1993' on the reverse
oil on canvas
70.1 x 116.4 cm. (27 5/8 x 45 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1992-1993.

Estimate
HK$6,000,000 - 9,000,000 
€646,000-968,000
$769,000-1,150,000

sold for HK$9,700,000

Contact Specialist
Jonathan Crockett
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Head of Department
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20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 27 May 2018