Sam Francis - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Sunday, June 26, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Byron R. Meyer Collection, San Francisco (1979)
    Christie’s New York, Post-War and Contemporary Art, 9 May 2012, lot 203
    Duhamel Fine Arts, Paris
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Zurich, Galerie Andre Emmerich, American Painting, July-August 1978
    Stockholm, Liljevalchs Konsthall, Sam Francis: Malningar 1976-1978, 1978

  • Literature

    Sam Francis: Peintures récentes 1976-1978, exh. cat., Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1978 (illustrated)
    Sam Francis: Malningar 1976-1978, exh. cat., Liljevalchs Konsthall, Stockholm, 1978 (illustrated)
    D. A. Lauer, Design Basics, New York, 1979, p. 24 (illustrated)
    P. Selz, Sam Francis, New York, 1982, pl. 152, p. 230 (illustrated)
    Sam Francis Foundation, Sam Francis Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings, 1946 – 1994, California, 2011, no. SFF 662 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Facing Within, is a masterful counter play of not just wide-ranging influences, but also light, texture, and colour. It is also at this time that a grid pattern appeared in his works. The matrix of Facing Within was created using industrial paint rollers and sponges, regular brushes, and other diverse painting materials through unorthodox techniques, such as placing the work flat on the floor and walking over it. Painted in 1975, Francis, who kept several studios in California, had also been spending much more time at his studio in Japan - where artistic influences were varied.

    His unusual methods explore the unique visual properties of acrylic paint, through large tracks of washed down colour, layered with splatters, drips, and colour saturation over a primed white background. This gave rise to The Matrix Paintings series, to which this work belongs. The series has been referred to as the ‘Fresh Air’ paintings due to their watery appearance and vibrant colouration.

    Facing Within is intuitive, technical, and cerebral. Francis studied botany, medicine, and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. Thus, images in his work often resemble cells or microscopic organisms. Moreover, one of Francis’ main preoccupations throughout his career was the materialization through art of the concepts behind Jungian psychology, which emphasizes the importance of a balanced individual state of mind and the personal quest for wholeness.

    Facing Within is a cell-like matrix created through translucent beams of colour and decorated with accents of bright pigments that masterfully draws the eye of the viewer towards the empty square in the middle. This central section is meant to represent a common ground for the artist and the audience to interact and exchange emotions.

    Simultaneously, it serves as a place for the exploration and meditation of the inner self. ‘The process of painting is one of devotion to that image.’ Explained the artist, ‘the illusion is what you make of it…each painting is like my body print, taken at different moments of my life.’ (D. Burchett-Lere, Sam Francis: Five Decades of Abstract Expressionism from California Collections, Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum, 2014). In this manner, Facing Within is a contemplative work that employs line and colour to wittingly create a communication link between the artist and the audience. Thus, this articulation of psychological constructs through expression and abstraction create a window in the mind and being of a master of Post-War painting and a conceptual mirror upon which the audience can reflect.


Facing Within

acrylic on canvas
167.3 x 213.6 cm (65 7/8 x 84 1/8 in.)
This work is registered with the Sam Francis Foundation under archive number SFP75-7.

£300,000 - 500,000 

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2016