Lucas Arruda - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | Phillips
  • “Light is what binds my works together, as if I am balancing light and shadow.” 
    — Lucas Arruda


    Hailing from São Paulo, Brazil, Lucas Arruda has garnered wide international acclaim for his nuancedly coloured canvases that linger between landscape painting and quasi-abstraction. Conveyed on an intimate scale and with great precision, the present work, Untitled, is a marvellous exemplar from Arruda’s celebrated series, Deserto-Modelo - a title inspired by the writings of Brazilian poet João Cabral de Melo Neto.



    Lucas Arruda mixing paint directly on the walls around his canvas in his studio, 2017



    Presenting a scene of ochre sea waves that blend into tumbling cloud on horizon line that feels just out of reach, Arruda masterfully balances light with shadow, using an array of cool-toned pigment he mixes directly on the wall around the perimeters of his painting. Although strongly evocative of the landscape paintings from the Romantic period, Arruda does not seek to portray realistic nature in his work. Instead, he draws from the landscapes of his mind to conjure scenes of an uncanny atmosphere, beckoning the viewer to ‘peer in as if looking through a portal to another world’ i, as they find themselves transported to places from their own memories and imaginative registers.  



    A Dance of Shadow and Light


    “My work is informed at a technical level by certain landscape painting, in the use of colour and brushwork for example, or Constable’s clouds, which are the best in that tradition. But those painters were observing nature.” 
    — Lucas Arruda

  • Enveloped in a hazy field of cloud, in the present work sky and sea merge to seem infinitely expansive, conveying an awe for the grandeur of nature reminiscent of the oeuvres of J.M.W. Turner and James Abbott McNeill Whistler – artists to whom Arruda is frequently compared. At the same time, the luminous surface of Untitled from the series Deserto-Modelo also recalls the techniques of Impressionist masters Claude Monet and John Constable, notably for their understanding of how light, shade, and colour can communicate the passing of time over the course of the day. The present work perfectly exemplifies this in the whispers of blue that peek through the dense blanket of ecru tinged mist, indicative of a break in the clouds paving the way for sunbeams to shine through once again.




    John Constable, Cloud Study, 1822
    Collection of the Tate Modern, London


    Unlike Monet and Constable’s preference for painting en plein air, however, Arruda’s compositions are not tied to any specific viewpoint. Instead, he favours the power of the imagination, regarding his imposing horizon lines as symbols to elicit emotions and ideas. As the artist asserts: ‘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


    Another artist who sought inner reflection from depicting seascapes was George O’Keefe, such as in her York Beach paintings of 1922 – 1928, which were created during a period of emotional turbulence as she dealt with the challenging aftereffects of heartbreak. Both Arruda and O’Keefe interrogate the understanding of perception in exploring the balance between man and nature, but whilst O’Keefe’s compositions showcase a clear distinction between sea and sky, Arruda’s paintings mesmerise in that ideas of foreground and distance are virtually eliminated. 




    Georgia O'Keeffe, Wave, Night, 1928
    Collection of the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Massachusetts 
    © 2021 Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / ARS, NY


    The Atmospheric Effects of Texture


    “It’s more powerful to contain something as immense as a seascape in a tighter scale. It increases and concentrates the radiation, and the surrounding frequency.” 
    — Lucas Arruda



    Mark Rothko, Blue and Gray, 1962
    Collection of the Beyeler Foundation, Switzerland
    © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York



    Despite his format of painting the classical structure of a landscape divided by a horizon line, Arruda differs from his predecessors as it is the process of painting itself that he brings to the forefront of each composition. 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, Arruda’s likens his working methods to being almost meditative in nature, akin to the contemplative capacity evoked by the grand canvases of Mark Rothko, which too, radiate an ethereal sense of sublime light caught within the subtleties of tonal hue.




    Gerhard Richter, Seestück, 1968
    © 2021 Gerhard Richter





    Perfectly complimenting this attitude are the works of Gerhard Richter, whose practice is also largely guided by his pushing of the boundaries of his chosen medium. However, whereas Richter starts from photographic reference for his own seascape series, works like Untitled from the series Deserto-Modelo stem from Arruda’s own reverie and the surface of his paintings is all but flat. Working on a small scale that requires intense concentration, he first applies thick layers of paint over a white background, building up hues before peeling and carving them away to draw out light from darkness.


    As such, it perhaps may be more appropriate to consider the present work in respect to Richter’s series of Abtraktes Bilder (see for example, Lot 16 - Gerhard Richter, Kerzenschein (Candle-light) (1984)), as both artists build up an almost sculptural definition of texture through layers of paint that tease the eye through the hints of colour that emerge from deep beneath. And yet, in stark contrast to Richter’s technique which is largely left up to chance, Arruda’s approach is meticulously calculated as each aesthetic decision is ‘worked out with great precision, including the scale, the choice of paints, [and] the shape of the canvas.’ii


  • Collector’s Digest 


    As one of the youngest artists to be represented by David Zwirner, Arruda’s London debut at the gallery in 2017 launched him onto an international stage. His practice has since been celebrated across numerous exhibitons, including at David Zwirner, New York in 2019, and the Pond Society in Shanghai – who were the first to present a solo presentation of Arruda’s work in China between November 2020 to January 2021. 


    When Phillips Hong Kong in Association with Poly Auction were the first to debut Arruda’s work in Asia at the end of 2020, his work Untitled  (2013) far surpassed its pre-auction estimates of HK$1,500,000 – 2,500,000, achieving an impressive HK$3,780,000 - the world record for the artist. His second top auction result was accomplished only recently at Phillips London, when it sold for £352,800 in October 2021, slotting in above the artist’s previous second-place record which also achieved in Hong Kong by Phillips in association with Poly Auction in June 2021.


    Arruda’s works are included in major collections globally, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, and the Fondation Beyeler in Basel.


  • Lucy Rees, ‘Lucas Arruda’s Dreamy Landscapes Go on View at David Zwirner’, Galerie, 10 October 2019, 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

      Herald St, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Herald St, I'll Be Your Mirror, 7 September - 6 October 2013

    • 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.  

      View More Works


Untitled from the series Deserto-Modelo

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

Full Cataloguing

HK$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for HK$3,780,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+852 2318 2026

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

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2021