She Isn't Afraid of Mondrian

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Serieuze Zaken, Amsterdam
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998

  • Exhibited

    Beijing Art Gallery of International Palace, New Anecdotes of Social Talk, 8-11 December 1995, p. 25 (illustrated)
    Beijing, Mingjingdi Gallery, Liu Ye, 1997, pp. 7, 25 (illustrated on p. 25)
    Art Gallery of Beijing International Art Palace; Shanghai Library; Guangdong Museum of Art, Mondrian in China: A Documentary Exhibition with Chinese Originals, 15 March - 24 May 1998, p. 43 (illustrated)
    Reykjavik Art Museum, Chinese Contemporary Art, 2002
    Austria, Kunstraum Innsbruck; Kuopio Art Museum; Salo Art Museum; Tonsberg, Haugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum; Ystad Konstmuseum; Singer Laren Museum; Kunsthalle Recklinghausen, Facing China:Works of Art from The Fu Ruide Collection, 17 May 2008 - 24 June 2012, pp. 54-55 (illustrated)

  • Literature

    Oriental Art, April 1996 (illustrated on cover)
    Leng Lin, It's Me! , Beijing, 2000, p. 272 (illustrated)
    London, Chinese Contemporary, Liu Ye: Fellini, A Guardsman, Mondrian, The Pope and My Girlfriend, April 2001, p.8 (illustrated)
    Christoph Noe ed., Liu Ye: Catalogue Raisonné 1991-2015, Berlin, 2015, no. 95-06, p. 263 (illustrated)
    Marianne Brouwer, Samuel Saelemakers, eds., Hans van Dijk/ Dai Hanzhi: A Life with Art China 1986 - 2002, Rotterdam, 2018, p.199 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in 1995 upon Liu Ye’s return to Beijing from his studies in Berlin, She Isn’t Afraid of Mondrian is an exquisite painting that radiates a quiet and sensual brilliance, combining many elements of Liu’s earliest and most discernible hallmarks. Executed generously on the largest canvas format that the artist used in the Nineties, this thought-provoking work is primarily autobiographical, and is a piece ripe for interpretation and investigation.

    She Isn’t Afraid of Mondrian is steeped in iconography and hidden meaning: ruminating on the work, the artist revealed that an artistic debate arose between his then-partner and himself, and the scene which unfurls is a direct allusion to this particular memory. The metaphorical result of this debate can be identified in the characters in the painting: the female figure’s face remains half-concealed in shadow, and the autobiographical cherubs stomp resolutely forward with Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie in tow, as if trying to drag it away from the group. The four figures are illuminated by a diagonal projection of light, as if to highlight these contradictory movements held in delicate tension. The spotlight projected upon this motley crew potently evokes the same sense of conspiratorial disquietude as the light illuminating the coterie of three in Edward Hopper’s Conference at Night, captured discussing some unknown plan in the fading evening glow. It also directly mirrors the large slab of light that unveils the unsuspecting sleeper in Balthus’ The Room, thanks to a mischievous character thrusting open a set of curtains. In this sense, the dazzling amber light in She Isn’t Afraid of Mondrian is layered in its connotations, calling to mind motifs of secrecy and mischievousness.

    Further, one detects Classical influences in Liu’s use of luminous yellow, such as Rembrandt’s Dinner at Emmaus, and the mystery which cloaks the scene. In the Dutch master’s version, the resurrected Jesus reveals himself to his disciples in a dimly lit dinner chamber, injecting the piece with awe and reverence: a new journey is underway. Much in the same way, the radiance spotlighting She Isn’t Afraid of Mondrian elicits a sense of wonder and anticipation of new beginnings. A worthy metaphor for Liu’s homecoming to Beijing but moreover, resolution at the end of a long debate, the light in this work literally ‘shines a light’ onto his new path ahead, or, conversely, mimics the way a lit corridor spills light through a door left ajar. In both senses, the present work provides us with a strong sense of journey and expedition, underscored by the marching cherubs in the painting no less.

    She Isn’t Afraid of Mondrian is also exceedingly well balanced: the attention paid to geometry and equilibrium within the painting owes its origins to Liu’s penchant for the Flemish School and later on, De Stijl. In this work, not only is the canvas’s composition diagonally separated by the rhombus of light, the work’s depth is also perpendicularly delineated by the ground and wall, and the trajectory of the marching figures perfectly aligned. The centrepiece of the artist’s fascination is Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Drawing from the push-pull of the melodious boogie-woogie that forms the titular concern of his pieces, Mondrian’s deceptively simple paintings are carefully crafted abstractions of the New York landscape in which he found himself. She Isn’t Afraid of Mondrian also pays tribute to an Abstract Expressionist whose meticulously painted works influenced Liu Ye. By the artist’s own admission, She Isn’t Afraid of Mondrian is a direct response to Barnett Newman’s Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue, a connection that lends a provocative backstory to the work. Recalling the sensationalist coverage surrounding the vandalism of the series (and its later repair) during the early to late Eighties, the present work evokes the themes of conflict but more importantly, subsequent reconciliation and repair.

    Most importantly, She Isn’t Afraid of Mondrian is a piece that represents Liu’s ability to not only draw from a rich background of sources, but his prowess as a gifted painter. Though the context behind the work may have been a contentious one, the artist’s devotion to the female character is apparent. Her rosy-cheeked face bears resemblance to varying versions of the Virgin Mary: disciplinary and angular-faced in the works of Max Ernst which a young Liu had seen in Cologne; or perhaps a traditional, nurturing and loving Madonna, her serenity captured across the Christian artistic canon. In this painting, the winged female figure thus takes on the role of both protector and disciplinarian, an apt allusion to the delicate situation of the couple’s disagreement. In the draped folds of her bright crimson dress, one also detects the beginnings of Liu’s curtain and stage series, one which began in the same year as this work. In its evocation of the stage — heightened also by the large central floodlight, as well as the Chinese operatic spear brandished by the small angel, and the dramatic prop of a pair of scissors wielded by his female companion — one gets a sense of theatrical unveiling, a gentle downplaying of the argument, perhaps.

    Above all else, this work presents the inherent (im)balance of life: where states of unresolved tensions can co-exist. In its balance, dynamism, harmonious use of colour, and the artist’s deft control of light, chromatics and composition, the otherworldly She Isn’t Afraid of Mondrian is a stunning piece. We are caught up in a story utterly Liu Ye’s own: the poetic mood of the work draws us in, manifesting into a compelling narrative of exposition, climax and resolution.

    Phillips would like to thank Liu Ye for his assistance with this essay.

  • Catalogue Essay

    繪於1995年,正值劉野結束柏林的學習返回北京後,《她不怯對蒙德里安》是一幅精美的作品,散發著寧靜和感性的光芒,結合了許多來自劉野最早期和最具辨識性的藝術特徵中之元素。大方地運用藝術家在90年代所使用過的最大尺幅畫布來創作,這件發人深省的畫作極大程度上是自傳式的,且是一件值得解讀和探究的成熟作品。

    《她不怯對蒙德里安》充滿了肖像學和隱藏的含義:對作品進行反覆思考後,藝術家透露,一場藝術辯論在其當時的同儕和他本人之間展開,這一場景直接暗示了特定的記憶。這場辯論的隱喻性結果可以在這幅創作中的人物身上對號入座:畫中女性人物的臉有一半隱藏在陰影中,自傳性的智天使堅定地踏步向前,蒙德里安的《百老匯爵士樂》一作緊隨其後,好像試圖要將其拖離組群。四個人物被對角的光線照亮,彷彿要突出微妙的緊張情緒下充滿矛盾之動態。照在這一眾人等身上的聚光燈,有力地喚起與愛德華·霍普的作品《夜間會議》,其中光線照向三人小團體時所具有的同樣的陰謀詭譎感,後者捕捉到了在餘暉中討論某些神秘計劃的一幕。它也直接指涉在巴爾蒂斯(的《房間》一作中,由於一個頑皮的人物將窗簾拉開,大片的光線照亮了那個毫無戒心的熟睡者。從這個意義上來看,《她不怯對蒙德里安》中令人眼花撩亂的琥珀色燈光蘊含著層層含義,讓人聯想到秘密和調皮等玩味主題。

    此外,可以發現劉野所使用的鮮黃色是來自古典繪畫之影響,例如林布蘭特的《以馬忤斯的晚餐》,以及包圍著那個場景的神秘感。在這位荷蘭大師的版本中,復活的耶穌在昏暗的晚餐室內現身於門徒們面前,為這件作品注入敬畏和尊崇之情:新的旅程正在啟航。同樣地,《她不怯對蒙德里安》中照耀的光芒,也影射出一種神奇感和對全新開始的期待感。對於劉野回歸故鄉北京,這是一個恰當的比喻,是一個長期辯論最終的結論,這件作品中的光芒從字面上「照亮了」他前方的新道路,或者相反地,它像是光線透過半開的門從明亮的走廊灑進來。從兩種意義上來說,本件作品提供了一種強烈的踏上旅程和遠征之感,畫中的智天使也同樣突出了這一點。

    《她不怯對蒙德里安》同時也也極其具有平衡感:畫中對幾何和平衡的關注源於劉野對弗拉芒畫派,以及後來的風格派之偏愛。在這件作品中,不僅畫面的構圖被菱形的光源對角地隔開,而且作品的深度也由地面和牆壁垂直地勾勒出來,並且人物行進的軌跡也完美地對齊。最讓藝術家所著迷的,皮特·蒙德里安之《百老匯爵士樂》,(現在已被紐約現代藝術博物館所收藏)。這件作品從曲調悠揚之布基烏基的推拉中汲取靈感,蒙德里安的同名繪畫作品看似簡單,實則是他苦心繪製的,以抽象描繪自己身處的紐約場景。《她不怯對蒙德里安》也是向一位抽象表現主義藝術家致敬,他精心繪製的作品曾經影響過劉野。藝術家自己承認,《她不怯對蒙德里安》是對巴內特·紐曼的《是誰在害怕紅黃色藍》之直接回應,這一聯繫為作品提供了引入入勝的背景故事。回顧八十年代初期至後期,圍繞《是誰在害怕紅黃色藍》的被破壞事件(及其後期修復)所引起的轟動性報導,喚起了衝突這一主題,但更重要的是,後來對其的和解與修復。

    最重要的是,《她不怯對蒙德里安》代表了劉野不僅能夠從豐富的背景中汲取創作來源,而且具有作為畫家的高超技巧。儘管作品的背景可能具有爭議,但藝術家對女性角色的熱愛是顯而易見的。她紅潤的臉龐與不同版本的聖母瑪利亞有著相似之處:年輕時的劉野在科隆看過的馬克斯·恩斯特作品中,嚴守戒律和棱角分明的版本;或許是傳統、母性和充滿愛心的聖母,她在整個基督教藝術經典中所被描繪的寧靜祥和。在劉野的這幅畫中,長翅膀的女性形象扮演著既是保護者又是嚴師的角色,這恰好暗示了角色所處的微妙分歧。在她鮮豔的深紅色連衣裙垂下之褶皺中,還可以看出劉野的布幕和舞台系列的開端,那個系列與本件作品開始於同一年。它對舞台的影射——同樣由大型中央探照燈強化氛圍,小天使手中揮舞中國戲曲中的長矛,以及他的女伴揮動著的剪刀,這些戲劇化道具——使人感到戲劇正拉開帷幕,這也許是對他們之間爭論的一種輕描淡寫。

    這件作品展現了生活固有的(失衡)平衡:懸而未決的緊張狀態可以共存。在其平衡、動力、對顏色的和諧運用,以及藝術家對光線、色彩和構圖的巧妙控制,超凡脫俗的《她不怯對蒙德里安》是一件令人驚艷的作品。我們陷入了完全是屬於劉野自己的故事:作品詩意的情緒吸引著我們步入其中,並展開一出引人入勝的故事的開端、高潮和結局。

    富藝斯特別鳴謝劉野協助指導此專文。

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Property from an Important Private European Collection

Liu Ye

She Isn't Afraid of Mondrian

1995
signed and dated 'liu ye ye [in Chinese] 95' lower right
acrylic and oil on canvas
200 x 170 cm. (78 3/4 x 66 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1995.

Estimate
HK$18,000,000 - 28,000,000 
€2,070,000-3,230,000
$2,310,000-3,590,000

Place Advance Bid
Contact Specialist
Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019