Genieve Figgis - INTERSECT: Online Auction Hong Kong Thursday, September 16, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Catalogue Essay

    Born 1972 in Dublin, Genieve Figgis was first launched into the public eye in 2014, when Richard Prince bought one of her works, under his clandestine moniker Fulton Ryder, titled Lady in a landscape with a Bird. Figgis' signature, satirical portraits in Rococo tones are distinct in their fluidity and colour palette, pairing escapism with rebelliousness. Surrounded by the intense ecclesiastical iconography of 1980s Catholic Ireland, Figgis conjures the same holy horror in the gaping faces of her figures, often twisted into eddying masses of blush and eyeshadow, appearing as ghouls freshly exhumed from the past of art history.


    Francisco Goya, Time and the Old Women, 1820, Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, Lille


    Taking as inspiration the operatic pieces of Old Masters and 18th century conversation pieces, Figgis’ figurative paintings reimagine historical spaces with an eerie edge, housing waifish figures donning suits and gowns fit for court, with lush interiors decked with velvet curtains, scintillating chandeliers, and gilded frames. The plastic application of paint brings immediate associations with Cecily Brown, while the demented faces appear straight out of a Goya painting. 


    Cecily Brown, All the Nightmares Came Today, 2012, Iris & Matthew Strauss Collection, Rancho Santa Fe, California © Cecily Brown. Photo: Robert McKeever.


    The current work, Lady with a Harp, is a prime example of Figgis’ unique synthesis of the historical with the modern, figuration and abstraction. A woman stands in the middle of a white space framed by black clenched in by blue. Two dark mirrors hang on opposing sides of the walls, reflecting unknown skeletal heads. As the central figure is engulfed by the blank voids, her smile seems weary and her harp symbolizes another means of oppression under the artifice of bourgeois society.


    Taking to the canvas without preparatory drawings, Figgis completes her paintings in one sitting, ranging from two to eight hours, in pursuit of the addictive unpredictability of her medium. Referring to painting as “like a giant liquid puzzle”, Figgis explained that painting is a challenge to be enjoyed: “I like how acrylic feels to work with, how it looks when it’s wet, and how anything is possible when working with a material that battles with me”i . Figgis’ dialogic method is a direct embodiment of her attitude towards her subjects – destabilising, subversive, equalising. With an inclusive cast of characters Figgis addresses the self-censorship and prim etiquette defining her chosen period, upturning expectations with her loosely rendered forms. The piercing gaze of her female figures, eyeballs afloat like peeled grapes in soup, resist our voyeurism and reclaim an agency historically snatched from their hands.

    “My characters are always about survival. I paint people who are strong and colourful. I try to depict a universal world of exclusion. The figures are happy, mostly floating in some utopian state of equality.” —— Genieve Figgis

    The works of Genieve Figgis have received acclaim internationally, inspiring the costume design of TV series Bridgerton. She has had numerous solo exhibitions at notable institutions including Almine Rech Gallery, Paris; Half Gallery, New York; Almine Rech Gallery, London; Gallery Met, New York; Talbot Gallery, Dublin; among many others. Group exhibitions include Gallery Target, Tokyo; Flood Gallery, Dublin; London Art Fair with Transition Gallery, London; and more. Figgis’ work has featured in international art fairs in Europe and the United States, including Art Brussels in 2017. She has also twice produced art in conjunction with The Metropolitan Opera, including a Gallery Met Short video work referencing Donizetti’s Roberto Devereuz opera in 2016.



    i Gemma Tipton, ‘Genieve Figgis: The figures are in a constant state of flux’, Wepresent, online

      • signed and dated 'Genieve Figgis 2018' on the reverse

      • acrylic on canvas

      • 100 x 120 cm. (39 3/8 x 47 1/4 in.)

      • Painted in 2018.

    • Provenance

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


Lady with a harp

signed and dated 'Genieve Figgis 2018' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
100 x 120 cm. (39 3/8 x 47 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

HK$550,000 - 750,000 

Sold for HK$882,000

Contact Specialist

Hin Hin Wong
Associate Specialist, 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Hong Kong
+852 2318 2013
Thomas Perazzi
Head of Watches, Asia
+852 2318 2001

Charlene Lau
Head of Jewels, Hong Kong
+852 2318 2039

INTERSECT: Online Auction

Online Auction 16 - 23 September 2021