Louise Bonnet - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Thursday, December 1, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “I’m interested in the body being out of control, that you think you are in control, but you are actually not, your body is betraying you, or things are happening that you can’t control... So the noses are, to me, represent that sort of weight, like an external vision of weight and being out of control, but still trying to be dignified about it.”
    — Louise Bonnet
    Fascinated by externalising her inner vision for emotions such as guilt and shame, Los Angeles-based Swiss artist Louise Bonnet’s constant explorations into the matter arrive at a highly recognisable style that straddles the line between beauty and ugliness, whilst focusing on expressing her own feelings as much as evoking them from the viewer. Created in 2016, The Swimmer is a humorous and bizarrely charming exemplar, revealing a light-hearted side of Bonnet’s oeuvre. Widely recognised for her beautiful yet grotesque depictions of human bodies that twist, fold and intwine into an emotionally powerful presence, she has garnered international following in recent years.

     

     

    Installation view of the present lot (right) at Berlin, König Galerie, Surrreal, 12 March - 24 April 2016 Courtesy the artists and König Galerie © the artists - Photo: Roman März
    Installation view of the present lot (right) at Berlin, König Galerie, Surrreal, 12 March - 24 April 2016
    Courtesy the artists and König Galerie
    Artwork: © Louise Bonnet

    Let The Body Talk

    “To me it’s really about you seeing something that you might not be allowed to see. That the person wouldn’t want you to see. That’s also why I think I don’t put eyes, usually, and I hide their faces, so that you are really allowed to look as much as you want without being challenged.”
    — Louise Bonnet
    Following less on a narrative that ties a painting together, Bonnet instead focuses on articulating the expressive tension of forms through the rendering of weight, volume, and depth, allowing elements to weave into a nonsensical appearance that exudes unexpected strength and enchantment. Captured on canvas is a figure in a navy swimsuit and swim cap, with wavy blond hair untucked, standing under a drizzling showerhead against a white-tiled bathroom wall. With eyes covered-up and their gender inconclusive, the character’s body is depicted in solidified and weighty forms, with a tiered torso being reminiscent of the Michelin Man. With the disproportionally large mallet-shaped nose taking centre stage for attention, the absurdity of the ‘swimming under a showerhead’ scene immediately brings a smile to the viewer’s face.

     

     

    The artist in her studio Courtesy of Juxtapoz Magazine, Portrait by David Broach
    The artist in her studio
    Image: David Broach, Artwork: © Louise Bonnet

     

    Portraying her characters without the distractions of the eyes or face, Bonnet aims to present a vulnerable moment of her figures, when their bodies betray their conscious management and is out of control. In the case of The Swimmer, this idea is articulated by the overly exaggerated weighty nose, visually pulling the character down, as if speaking for the entertainingly dampened mood. This characterisation recalls the well-known protagonist of children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio, whose nose grows whenever he lies. Bonnet zooms in on the psychological and physiological tension that is a result from the unwilling revelation of what one intends to conceal.

     

     

     

    Left: The present lot   Right: Caravaggio, The Musicians, 1597 Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1952, 5281
    Left: The present lot
     
    Right: Caravaggio, The Musicians, 1597
    Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1952, 5281

     

    A long-desired creative freedom came to Bonnet after she unleashed her creative voice by switching from acrylic paint to the oil medium in 2014, with market popularity positively affirming this transition in her style. Contrasted to the flat quality of acrylic painting, oil allows for a rendering of stronger compositional depth, introducing to her new canvases a vivid chiaroscuro that imparts sculptural quality and dramatic impact. This new element allows for much dramatic tension to come through, inevitably reminding the viewer of the distinct style of Baroque Mannerism artists such as Caravaggio.

      

     

    The Expressive Potentials of The Human Form


    As female contemporaries of Bonnet, both Christina Quarles and Sarah Slappey share a focus on figuration, exploring the expressive potentials of human bodies in out-of-the-ordinary ways. Quarles and Slappey are unapologetically bold in expressing their unique sentiments by redlining normalcy of human representations, and as a result, evoke unexpected emotions, exemplified by I Can Only Feel Whut Touches Me by Quarles and Black Pearls II by Slappy.

     

     

    Left: Lot X, Christina Quarles, I Can Only Feel Whut Touches Me, 2016 Phillips Hong Kong Evening Sale, 1 December 2022 Estimate: HKD900,000 - 1,200,000   Right: Lot X, Sarah Slappey, Black Pearls II, 2020 Phillips Hong Kong Evening Sale, 1 December 2022 Estimate: HKD300,000 - 500,000
    Left: Lot 5, Christina Quarles, I Can Only Feel Whut Touches Me, 2016
    Phillips Hong Kong Evening Sale, 1 December 2022
    Estimate: HKD900,000 - 1,200,000
     
    Right: Lot 32, Sarah Slappey, Black Pearls II, 2020
    Phillips Hong Kong Evening Sale, 1 December 2022
    Estimate: HKD300,000 - 500,000

    Sharing a graphic design background with Bonnet, Quarles centres her works around subverting ingrained assumptions and beliefs concerning identity and the human figure with her fluid and dynamic human forms, employing technologies such as Adobe Illustrator into her creative process. Slappey, contrastingly brings to focus the unconscious violence inherent to the homogenous and almost rigid definition of femineity, articulated by her meticulously delineated and bizarrely interactive human limbs.

     

    Immersing into Bonnet’s work can be a complicated experience: while being puzzled and even repulsed by the grotesque appeal, one is irresistibly attracted to her work in ways beyond logical explanations. The simultaneous emotional pleasure and critical judgement create unconscious inner conflict within the viewer’s mind, making the viewing experience of Bonnet’s work an unexpected expedition of inward discoveries.

     

    Bonnet was born in 1970 in Geneva, Switzerland, where she attended the Haute École d’art et de design. She now resides and works in Los Angeles with artist husband Adam Silverman. She began her creative career working in illustration and graphic design, before foray into the realm of painting in 2008. Her recent exhibition includes Onslaught at Gagosian in Hong Kong (31 May – 6 August 2022), marking her Asian debut, and her first solos show in France – Bathers at Galerie Max Heltzer in Paris (11 September – 30 October 2021).

     

    In addition to being represented by Gagosian, Bonnet’s work is amongst the permanent collections of the San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art; Yuz Foundation, Shanghai; Brandhorst Museum, Munich; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; amongst others.

     

    The artist speaking on her creative process, 2022

    • Condition Report

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    • Description

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    • Provenance

      Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Berlin, König Galerie, Surrreal, 12 March - 24 April 2016

ULTRA/NEO

31

The Swimmer

oil on canvas
76.5 x 51 cm. (30 1/8 x 20 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
HK$400,000 - 600,000 
€49,200-73,700
$51,300-76,900

Place Advance Bid
Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 1 December 2022