Birth of Venus (After Alexandre Cabanel)

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  • Condition Report

  • Provenance

    Almine Rech Gallery, Paris
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Dijon, Consortium Museum, L’Amanach 18: Genieve Figgis, 22 June - 14 October 2018

  • Catalogue Essay

    First unveiled as part of the third instalment of the international biennial, L’Almanach 18: Genieve Figgis, at the Dijon Consortium Museum in France among fifteen other oils on canvas, Birth of Venus (After Alexandre Cabanel) is a prime example of the artist’s pursuit and exploration of history as a constant starting point for her work. One of the many alluring nudes on view at the Paris Salon of 1863, Alexandre Cabanel’s Birth of Venus (1863) was received in triumph as it perfectly embodied the ideals of academic art, with highly idealised bodies carefully modelled in silky brushstrokes, and more importantly, set against the backdrop of a mythological and allegorical ‘pretext’. While Cabanel’s Birth of Venus was shown to great acclaim at the official Salon, one other work caused great controversy at the Salon des Refusés (the Salon for the rejected), Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, where he featured a female nude in a contemporary setting seated with two clothed men in the countryside, thereby transgressing the rules of academic painting and scandalising contemporary morals. Looking to Cabanel’s masterpiece as her main source of inspiration, Genieve Figgis makes a bold statement. She puts her own contemporary spin on the classical subject that was once seen to embody the perfect ideals of academic painting, not shying away from questioning the validity of taste and bringing home the importance of non-conformity when it comes to originality and the personal vision of the artist.

    Reinterpreting the classical female character in a whimsical and humorous manner, Figgis renders Venus with skull-like and animalistic features, bathed in rich and eye candy colours that seemed to melt through paint, like candle wax, calling to mind the small figures that remind us of our childhood. “The women in the paintings are reinventions of historical portraits. I like to paint them as more vibrant characters, braver more colour and alive” she explained, dissolving their forms against each other and blurring the contours of their bodies with the same assurance as a deforming mirror in a fun house, yet retaining a dreamlike quality. It is this very coexistence of the whimsical and macabre that makes the present lot all the more charming with a combination of apparent pictorial banality with an otherworldly quality, where Figgis’s Venus hovers between an ancient deity and a modern dream. While Figgis never sets out to intentionally portray grotesque or comedic in her work, the painting is her stage and the story she paints happen by chance, allowing her to invent and direct as she goes along, with a blend of continuous and sinuous acrylic brushstrokes, with no idea of how it will end. The result is of a fascinating moment, in which the old times are reflected on contemporaneity and her figures repeat themselves masked under the different cosmetics of time.

  • Catalogue Essay

    《維納斯的誕生(追隨在亞歷山大・卡巴內爾之後)》,此幅作品於法國第戎集團美術館所舉行之第三屆國際雙年展中首次亮相,與另外十五幅油畫在《 18號年曆:珍尼維・菲吉斯》展覽中同時展出。菲吉斯致力探求歷史淵源,以此為創作靈感起點,本作正是典型範例。在1863年的巴黎沙龍之中,展出不少以誘人裸體為主題的畫作,亞歷山大・卡巴內爾同年所作《維納斯的誕生》獲得最高讚譽,該作品完美地體現了學術派美感的理想追求,絲絨般的筆觸,精心勾勒出極度美化的身軀姿態,重要地是,卡巴內爾更假託了神話和寓言作為烘襯背景。就在卡巴內爾《維納斯的誕生》於官方沙龍中廣受讚譽之同時,馬奈的《 草地上的午餐》於「拒絕的沙龍展」中引起了巨大爭議,因為藝術家在畫中描繪一個裸女與兩位穿著完整的紳士在看似當時的鄉間景緻中席地而坐,從而全然違反了學術繪畫的規則,並更醜化了當代道德。菲吉斯以卡巴內爾的傑作為主要靈感,卻藉此發表了大膽的宣言,她將自己的當代解讀架構於古典主題上,進而考究這個曾被視為體現了學術繪畫完美理想的古典主題,她毫不迴避地質疑該品味在當代的有效性,並強調了藝術家應堅守原創性和個人願景而不須屈就主流的重要性。

    菲吉斯用異想天開及幽默的方式,重新詮釋了古典女性角色,她賦予維納斯類似骷顱頭和動物般的面部特徵,沐浴在豐富繽紛的色彩中。這些色彩如同蠟般,在油彩流動間一觸即融,塑造出讓人連想起兒時把玩的小玩偶之形象。「畫中的女人,是對歷史肖像畫的重塑。我喜歡把她們描繪成更具活力的角色,更加大膽的色彩以及鮮活感。」她如此解釋;將畫中角色彼此間形體相互溶解,模糊了她們的身體輪廓,就像遊樂園裡變形鏡子一樣,卻又保留了如夢境般的質感。正是異想天開和怪誕的這種共存,使本件作品更顯迷人,因為她在繪畫裡鮮明結合了平庸與超凡脫俗兩個衝突特質。菲吉斯筆下的維納斯,在古老神話和現代夢境之間徘徊。儘管藝術家從未打算在她的作品中刻意刻畫怪誕或喜劇,但繪畫即是她的舞台,畫中故事性也趨向偶然性,讓她在創作過程中不斷地進行發想及導演著,透過連續而彎曲的壓克力筆觸,帶領觀者一同探索無人知曉的結局,因而打造出一個讓人心神嚮往的時空,在此其中,我們不難看出她以當代性反映舊時代,她的人物則在不同時代裝飾下重複自我。

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102

Birth of Venus (After Alexandre Cabanel)

2018
signed and dated 'Genieve Figgis 2018' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
120.2 x 150 cm. (47 3/8 x 59 in.)
Painted in 2018.

Estimate
HK$250,000 - 400,000 
€29,100-46,500
$32,100-51,300

Place Advance Bid
Contact Specialist
Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2019