Genesis Tramaine - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Thursday, March 30, 2023 | Phillips
  • Genesis Tramaine (b. 1983) is one of the most exciting artists working today. Devoted to expressionism, she specialises in creating abstract portraits that transcend the limitations of gender, race, and social constructs by transforming the ordinary into extraordinary. While creating works that elicit a sense of familiarity and trigger memories of past experiences, she offers glimpses into unexplored possibilities.


    A Theist Bursting with Vision and Creativity


    A definite lamb of God, the artist first embarked on her deeply spiritual journey as a child at church, where she would draw on whatever she could get her hands on – including Bibles – in order to adhere to clerical solemnity. Fast forward to the present day, not much has changed; the practice of making art has become worship for Tramaine – her canvas her lectern, her pigment her scripture.

    “I prayed for peace. I pray to be covered. I pray to be used. I pray for my practice to be elevated so it may help someone else find a deeper connection spiritually. When you praise the Lord with thanksgiving and you close your prayers in the name of Jesus, blessings come down. King David is a Saint, a man born to us as ordinary and used for extraordinary things. His life saw several trials, several tribulations, yet he hung close to the Lord. He consulted with God for each test and shared his testimony in Psalm, which ignited much of the biblical components present in the Gospel and titles of my work.”
    — Genesis Tramaine

    Coined as an ‘Expressionist Devotional’, the artist begins her creative process by channelling her religion through paper and prayer, ‘I think there is a way to trace the energy of God,’ she says i. Tramaine further meditates on the teachings of saints, before actively seeking for guidance from the Holy Spirit: ‘I pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit. I pray to be used…I am not quite sure when spirit is in the room; I am not quite sure of the moment. I am grateful for it. However, the portrait isn’t complete until the Holy Spirit’s presence is clear to me’ ii.


    Her creations are powerfully influenced by these spiritual elements which drive her to capture the impassioned emotions of the uncharted, underrepresented spirit of Black individuals, using exaggerated features of her subjects. Her paintings are studies of corporal motion where facial features are contorted into momentous dynamism, and physical markers become distorted – hands become shoulders; eyes become mouths. Mother of Suns of Thunder is a striking example of this unique vision. Set against a turquoise background and wearing a red dress, she is the image of cubic femininity. Rich tones balanced by a thick quality of line provide a study of complex contrast, with the sharp brushwork and abstract shapes create a sense of tension and movement. Though despite the fragmented nature of the image, the woman remains a powerful presence, her essence shining through the shattered pieces of her portrait whose profound depths, thought-provoking colours, and abstract expressionist strokes revealing glimpses of both the forgotten and the undiscovered.



    A Metaphysical Exploration


    Before the surge in popularity of spiritual and esoteric movements such as new age and mindfulness in the Western, the freethinking Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941) combined the most salient features of diverse religious movements in his artistic production. Hailing from Russia by birth, he relocated to Munich where he matured into a preeminent German Expressionist, ascending to the vanguard of a cadre of artists identified as Der Blaue Reiter. With portraits such as Saviour’s Face: Resurrection or the New Seeing II, we see close association with Tramaine’s practice: both artists striving for the simplification of form towards the ultimate goal of spiritual purity.



    Alexej von Jawlensky, Saviour’s Face: Resurrection or the New Seeing II, 1918, Private Collection

    Nonetheless her artistic expression evokes similarity from a variety of cradles, including Art Brut and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Like Tramaine, Basquiat’s heavily stylised and symbol-laden portraits represent the fragmentation and struggle for identity and self-expression in a society that often marginalises Black voices, evoking a confrontational quality that speaks to the raw emotion of the Black experience.



    Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ancient Scientist, 1984
    Sold by Phillips Hong Kong for HK$ 58,330,000, 3 December 2020
    © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York

    Tramaine as a person, as an identity, is almost as multifaceted as her figures. As a Black Queer woman and a Christian, she appears a walking contradiction to most. Regardless, she remains defiant of public opinion and perception: ‘The Lord strengthens my stride. God is Trans…that means to me, my steps are ordered, my path is clear and as long as I believe and claim it all in the name of Jesus, God’s grace shall overflow. I hope my testimony reminds others of God’s Love.’ iii.



    Yet past any one individual’s view of religion or Christianity, Tramaine’s work is testament to her exceptionality. So much of art that is created these days is, naturally, self-reflective of an artist’s emotions, desires and identities. Therefore, to encounter art that is wholly devotional and deferential to something else than ego is nothing short of revolutionary. The artist herself is forthright in her path and future career: ‘I’m a Black woman artist, and I’ve got to do what I got to do to not just keep up, but to build for the next generation. To build and inspire for those who may not know a lot of these tunnels don’t exist, and there’s just no light. I praise and thank God for being the artist who is put in position to create, and to shed that light.’ iv



    The present lot (left) exhibited at Chorus, Almine Rech, Paris, 12 October - 16 November 2019


    Collector’s Digest


    • Tramaine has enjoyed solo shows at: Almine Rech, New York, Aspen, Brussels, London; Rubell Museum, Miami; Richard Beavers Gallery, New York; and Newark L Center, Newark. Her work resides in prominent museum collections including: Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina; National Gallery of Art, Washington; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas; The Brant Foundation, New York; The Bass Museum of Art, Miami; Rubell Museum, Miami; ICA Miami; Contemporary Art Foundation, Tokyo.


    i Revd. Jonathan Evens, ‘Genesis Tramaine: A Queer Devotional Painter Interview’, Artlyst, 7 February 2021, online

    ii Genesis Tramaine, quoted in Brienne Walsh, ‘Genesis Tramaine Is Praying For You’, Forbes, 11 July 2021, online

    iii Genesis Tramaine, quoted in Morgan Becker, ‘Genesis Tramaine’s paintings find God in Black, queer community’, Document, 25 March 2022, online

    iv ibid.

    • Provenance

      Almine Rech, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2019

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Almine Rech Gallery, Chorus, 12 October - 16 November 2019
      Italy, Prato, Palazzo Pretorio Museum, Hi Woman! La notizia del futuro, 1 December 2021 - 27 March 2022


Mother of Suns of Thunder

signed, dated and inscribed 'In Jesus's Name I Humbly Pray, Amen April 2019 GENESIS TRAMAINE' on the top edge; signed with the artist’s signature and dated on the lower right edge; further signed with the artist’s signature on the lower left edge
acrylic, oil stick and spray paint on canvas
152.4 x 122 cm. (60 x 48 in.)
Executed in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

HK$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for HK$2,667,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 30 March 2023