George Rouy - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Thursday, March 30, 2023 | Phillips
  • British painter George Rouy investigates themes of symbolism, sexuality, and the expressiveness of the body in his vast, striking paintings of colossal, formless, entangled figures. Coming to auction for the very first time, Posing in Our Image depicts two monumental spectral figures, one cradled in the embrace of the other, neck thrown back as she probes a slit on her chest. Rendered in muted fuchsia with the smooth, glowing style of the Old Masters, Rouy’s almost spiritual figures emanate a powerful symbolism as they float in a dreamy, deep purple atmosphere.



    Installation photo of the present lot at Los Angeles, Steve Turner Gallery, Smothered Awake, 27 October - 8 December 2018

    Rouy’s figures spring from the depths of his fertile imagination. Through his unique, amorphous yet sculptural style, he seeks to ‘capture a feeling that is not subjective to a specific person.’ His figures hold each other, knotted together in a primordial, writhing mass, evoking a universality of emotion through their primal, godlike gesture.



    The Emotive Body



    Rouy simultaneously utilises the human figure as a site for expressing emotion and rejects the conventions of art history through his unique portrayal of the human body. In Posing in Our Image, Rouy’s bodies exude a powerful eroticism, the figure in the foreground throwing back her head ecstatically as she pries open her wound, while the figure holding her has eyes closed in either reverent meditation, or blissful rapture.



    “I slowly started to see the direction I wanted to take, talking about emotions and provoking feelings and reactions rather than evoking a specific narrative. That’s where my work situates itself: it’s less about narratives and more about emotions, akin to life. I also like seeing a component of the abstract. Although there’s a tangible figure, it’s a figure that works within an abstract setting.”
    — George Rouy


    By intentionally diverging from the traditional manner of figure painting in Posing in Our Image, Rouy creates a world where bodies take on an added layer of meaning, eclipsing preconceived notions of what the human body must represent in art. In Rouy’s vast, vivid canvases, his abstracted, otherworldly figures transcend narrative and adopt as subject the fathomless potential of human emotion. Rouy’s mammoth, intertwined figures are not unlike those of Brazilian Modernist Tarsila do Amaral, who similarly defied academic conventions of figure painting in works such as her 1929 painting Anthopophagy.



    Tarsila do Amaral, Anthropophagy (Antropofagia) , 1929
    The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Artwork: © Tarsila do Amarol


    Amaral’s massive humanoid figures serve a different mission than Rouy’s: to symbolise Brazilian modernists’ cannibalism, digestion, and reinvention of European art. However, like Amaral, Rouy combines art historical reference with a novel form of rendering the figure to create powerful work that symbolically examines death, the body, and resurrection.



    Choosing the Symbolic over the Narrative


      “I think it’s important that [the works are] not autobiographical. There needs to be enough space so that the viewer can enter it and not just assess it as these stories, because they’re not stories. They’re almost like symbols.”
    — George Rouy


    One of the most fascinating figure painters working today, Rouy paints the human body in a wide variety of styles: contorted, often nude, ephemeral, ghostly, or solid, exhibiting his extensive technical range and capability as an artist. Painted with a fluid gravitas, Rouy’s figures overwhelm the viewer and their heated gazes, interlocked limbs, and closeness to one another are imbued with emotional and symbolic significance. In the present lot, the figures’ close embrace reveals an intense intimacy that is questioned by the one figure’s almost clinical, seemingly painless probing of her wound. This action itself carries symbolic weight, as a possible reference to the biblical story of the doubtful apostle Thomas, who refused to believe in his own resurrection without firsthand experience.



    Caravaggio, Doubting Thomas, 1601-02
    Sanssouci Picture Gallery, Potsdam, Germany


    Posing in Our Image references Caravaggio’s painting of the apostle Thomas probing Christ’s wound, entitled Doubting Thomas. Rouy’s painting similarly portrays a person who probes a cut under their right breast, his luminous purple bodies evoking the glowing chiaroscuro of the master Baroque painter. By rendering his behemothic, sacred figures in a primitive, godlike style, Rouy subtly references the story of apostle Thomas while masterfully eluding narrative and evoking an ardent, divine presence.



    Collector’s Digest


    • Born in Britain in 1994, George Rouy graduated from Camberwell College of Arts in London in 2015 and has garnered considerable recognition since for his massive, haunting paintings of nude figures. Rouy has had several major international solo exhibitions, among which are Belly Ache (solo), at Almine Rech Gallery in Paris, France (2022), Real Corporeal, Gladstone Gallery, New York, USA (2022);  Shit Mirror (solo), at Peres Projects, Berlin, Germany (2022); A Thing for the Mind, Timothy Taylor Gallery, London, UK (2022), and Clot (solo), in 2020 at Hannah Barry Gallery in London. Rouy’s work has been collected by institutions such as M Woods, 69 Art Campus and X Museum, Beijing, China; Ståhl Collection, Norrköping, Sweden; ICA, Miami, USA; Fondation Cartier and Lafayette Anticipations, Paris; and Sifang Art Museum, Nanjing, China.


    • Provenance

      Steve Turner Gallery, Los Angeles
      Private Collection, USA
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Los Angeles, Steve Turner Gallery, Smothered Awake, 27 October - 8 December 2018


Posing in Our Image

acrylic on canvas
225 x 180 cm. (88 5/8 x 70 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

HK$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for HK$889,000

Contact Specialist

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 30 March 2023