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  • Introduction

     

    Intimately sized, Untitled, from the Deserto-Modelo series, beckons the viewer to come closer, inviting them to peer into the meticulously applied brushstrokes that bring into form a complex rendition of a horizon line at the cusp of dawn or dusk. Existing at the point of tension between abstraction and figuration, the present work masterfully exemplifies São Paulo artist Lucas Arruda’s exploration of the sensations of atmosphere suspended within the medium of paint. Evocative of the academic tradition of landscape painting, his meditative scenes recall its historical associations with the Romantic sublime, yet in his persistent, almost obsessive pursuit of light, Arruda transcends the genre through a distinctly contemporary lens.

     

    "Light is what binds my works together, as if I am balancing light and shadow." —Lucas Arruda

     

    Executed in 2013, Untitled perfectly showcases the rich painterly language for which Arruda is acclaimed. Juxtaposing the monumental vastness of the expansive scene depicted, the composition is rendered in a relatively small format. Up close, the sheer craft of the work is striking, built up of thick swathes of paint in a monochromatic colour palette of grey and variant tints of Prussian blue that the artist applies in small, precise brushstrokes whilst standing, mixing colours on the wall around the perimeters of the work. Through wiping, peeling or scraping, paint is then removed and the subtraction of pigment carves a transcendent light from darkness that radiates from the horizon line that is just out of reach, accentuating the stormy clouds that billow into the foreground. 

     

    Lucas Arruda in his studio, 2017

     

    Landscapes of the Past

     

    Drawing inspiration from the writings of Brazilian poet João Cabral de Melo Neto, from whom the term ‘Deserto-Modelo’ is borrowed, numerous other influences are palpable in Arruda’s ethereal works. In its modest size, Untitled brings to mind the seventeenth-century landscapes of a similar scale (see for example Harbour Scene at Sunset (1643)), whilst Arruda’s articulation of light, perspective and the capabilities of tonality undeniably align the work with the late, magnificent seascapes of J.M.W. Turner (see for example Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth (circa 1842)). Exploring this connection, esteemed critic Oliver Basciano elaborates: ‘There is a similar turbulence to the brushwork, a similar invocation of the apparently infinite power of nature, a similar feeling of impotence provoked in the viewer by that thought. Yet Arruda’s scenes are lonelier than those of the historical artists…. Turner and Constable gradually remove the figure in their work…. Arruda goes a step further. Apparently no one lives in or ventures to the places he paints (except, in a way, us); in fact, the materiality of Arruda’s landscape is all but disregarded in favour of atmosphere’ i.

     

  • The Concept, not the Genre

     

    Varying from his predecessors, Arruda’s horizons are plucked from the mind’s eye with no specific viewpoint in mind: ‘In a way, the only reason to call my works landscapes is cultural: it’s simply that viewers automatically register my format as a landscape, although none of the images can be traced to a geographic location. It’s the idea of a landscape rather than a real place’ ii. Rather than simply imitating nature, the artist’s dedicated commitment to a single pictorial motif is the starting point for introspective contemplation, seeking to reveal ‘a sensation, a state of mind suspended within the medium of paint…that can’t be grasped through language because there aren’t sufficient visual elements to describe it’ ii. As such, Arruda’s depictions of ambiguous yet familiar vistas are meditations on time, inviting viewers to indulge in not only the romantic grandeur of nature, but to bring our own histories and memories to bear onto the work.

    "Over the years, repetition and process of painting itself have brought me a manner of working, and this is an ongoing process." —Lucas ArrudaWhilst Arruda has earned himself a cohort of prestigious comparisons, he most strongly identifies with the uniformed still life’s of Giorgio Moriandi (see for example Still Life (1960)), as both artists use ‘the same structure - a landscape with a horizon line. There’s a combination of mathematical and metaphysical impulses’ ii.

  • Perfectly complimenting this attitude are the celebrated seascape photographs of Hiroshi Sugimoto (see for example Aegean Sea, Pilion (1990)), whose repetitive series of black-and-white horizons too, question the nature of time and reality. Whereas Sugimoto’s long-exposures softly blur crashing waves into sky, Untitled achieves its dreamlike quality through the individual brushstrokes that take on an almost sculptural significance in their detail.

  • The tenacious seriality of Deserto-Modelo further points towards the daily practice of art making as a way of negotiating life championed by On Kawara’s Today series (see for example Lot 28, Nov. 25, 1989 (1989)). In 2017, works of Kawara’s were presented alongside paintings by Arruda in HIC SVNT DRACONES’ Days and Horizons, curated to showcase how the strength of both artist’s works lies in their capacity to create stillness and silence. At once classical and contemporary, Untitled exemplifies Arruda’s fresh approach to the landscape genre that builds upon the masterpieces throughout art history. 
        

    Collector’s Digest


    With fewer than ten Deserto-Modelo paintings offered before, Untitled is a superb example from an artist rare to auction. After international shows in recent years including a large-scale institutional solo show, held at the Fridericianum in Kassel, Germany, as well as exhibiting alongside artists including Agnes Martin, Felix Gonzales-Torres and Rudolf Stingel in ‘Luogo e Sengi’ presented by the Punta della Dogana in Venice, both last year, Arruda has catapulted to international recognition. Works of Aurruda’s form part of notable public collections including The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and the Rubell Family Collection, Miami, and his unique vision will be celebrated in a comprehensive monograph being published by David Zwirner later this year. Having achieved the world record for the artist this past February in London, Phillips is thrilled to present a work of Arruda's for the first time at auction in Asia.

     

    i Oliver Basciano, ‘Lucas Arruda’, Art Review, October 2017, online
    ii Lucas Arruda quoted in Angeria Rigamonti di Cutò, ‘The only reason to call my works landscapes is cultural’, Studio International, 19 September 2017, online

    • Provenance

      Gallery Mendes Woods, São Paulo
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Artist Biography

      Lucas Arruda

      Lucas Arruda is a Brazilian contemporary artist who lives and works in São Paolo. Arruda paints diffusive land- and seascapes characterized by faint horizon lines, intense internal light, and a placid expression of the sublime. His paintings recreate the unrelenting violence of nature, blending wisps of clouds and the foam of the sea into the indistinguishable whole of the storm. His works are meditations on memory and loss, created by paradoxically using abstraction as a means to achieve illusory figuration.   

      Arruda’s paintings are marked both by an all-encompassing elusiveness and an immersive turbulence of form. Primarily working on an intimate scale, Arruda co-opts the onerous expressiveness of abstract painting to create scenes of the intense power and beauty of nature. Arruda’s formal experimentations with the temperament of light and the capabilities of tonality align his work with that of James Abbott Whistler and J.M.W. Turner as much as with that of Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still.  

       
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29

Untitled

2013
signed and dated 'LUCAS ARRUDA 2013' on the reverse
oil on canvas
50 x 60 cm. (19 5/8 x 23 5/8 in.)
Painted in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
HK$1,500,000 - 2,500,000 
€163,000-271,000
$192,000-321,000

Sold for HK$3,780,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 3 December 2020