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

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  • “The idea of painting as mantra interests me: paintings as objects, figurations as images and models used as vibrations to reach somewhere else, beyond ourselves.”
    — William Monk

    Recognised for his poetically atmospheric and enigmatic landscape paintings, British’s artist William Monk’s oeuvre is his meditation on the sublime and the personal. Centring his creative explorations on subject-matters concerning cycles of life, death, and transcendence, he paints with the aim to activate the space between the object and the spectator. Created in 2013, the energetic and minimalist Far-Out III finds itself amongst a three-work series, exploring the artistic possibilities of themes such as the Earth, the universe, and the repeating shapes and fractals throughout the world we know and beyond.



    Detail of the present lot


    An engrossing quality of Monk’s works are that they are figuratively familiar yet elusive in meaning, inviting the viewer to actively contribute to his own understanding of the former’s visual codes. Showing in the present work is a glimpse into Monk’s apocalyptic take on his vision of the universe that we all share. The curvature of a vast cerulean blue globe clearly divides the pictorial plane with the boundless dark void in the backdrop. At the lower centre of the picture, a cyan planet radiates vibrant rainbow-coloured auras as it partially emerges out of the blue ocean, surrounded by a liquid orbit. A close-up of this pebbly-textured orbit is delineated in a thin strip at the bottom of the canvas, substantiating the picture with a denser material quality, whilst bringing the macrocosm and the microcosm into juxtaposition. Come near the canvas, one will discover drizzles and strokes of greens, blues and purples on the seemingly matte black background, which at once becomes mesmerizingly reflective in light, with rainbow-coloured specks shining through the darkness. The depth of this infinite void immediately reminds the all-encompassing and magnificent starry universe that we lift out heads to gaze upon from time to time, transcending the act of looking into an experience of plunging into the sublime. Monk’s visual representations aren’t for any amount of rational decoding, for its elusive quality serves as a kind of tractor-beam, tugging between the known and the unknown. 



    Alchemising the Digital and the Traditional 


    Monk’s oeuvre stems from a personal ode to painting, the commitment of which is manifested in the present work through both the artist’s signature visual cues and his exploration of repetition. The central motif consisting of a red or orange circle inside larger yellow circles, originates from the sun that Monk painted as a child, and recurs in paintings such as the 2014 Untitled (Atomic Flower Power)i. For him, revisiting the same motif time and time again takes on a philosophical connotation as the practice is comparable to ‘the unfolding of a mantra or a word losing its perceived meaning through repetition.’ For him, this simple practice can also be playfully psychological, ‘the point where the brain expects something to end is the part I find the most interesting, and this can only be achieved through repetition.’ii



    Left: Detail of the present lot

    Right: Peter Doig, Tunnel Painting (Country-rock), 40.5 x 30.5 cm., 2000
    Sold by Phillips, London, 29 June 2017 for GBP1,157,000 (Premium)
    Artwork: © 2022 Peter Doig / Artsts Rights Society (ARS), New York


    The constant return to imagery, shape, line or colour-schema shows the artist’s simple commitment to the language and medium of paint, flavoured by the investment of his personal experience. This creates a parallel between Monk’s practice with that of one of the most renowned living figurative painters Peter Doig. Known for his renditions of pastoral landscapes, Doig balances the tension between generic representations of a subject and reflections of his personal experience in his works. Yet for Monk, this central duality is the known and the unknown, for painting is just the beginning of the unknown: ‘I don’t know exactly what the work is about. The paintings are starting points for other kinds of illumination, a receiving and reimagining that has nothing to do with paintings being finished expressions.’iii



    Harold Ancart, Untitled, 2015
    Artwork: © 2022 Harold Ancart / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


    A major inspiration of Monk’s process is integrating the digital reality that we are accustomed to into traditional painting, through the visual vocabulary of organic forms that places emphasises on paint quality. Weaving figuration and abstraction in and out of one another as a harmonious whole and a juxtaposed duality, Monk’s practice draws a parallel with that of his Belgian contemporary, Harold Ancart. Also creating serial works that straddle between representation and figuration, Ancart emphasises the process of painting by experimenting with colour and composition, simultaneously embracing chance as the co-creator of his work. For Monk, the way a painting is experienced fascinates him, as he, as an artist, explores the ways in which he can guide those experiences, re-establishing the meaning of a painting within the context of the digital world.

     “There’s a similar level of thought about how these paintings are created, composed and arranged, to pull you into the space.”
    — William Monk

    Activating the Space In-Between


    This present lot is included as a part of Monk’s 2013 exhibition Furthur Planetarium! at Grimm Gallery, Amsterdam, featuring a selection of large oil paintings together with woodcuts, watercolours, and distempers from the two years prior. The intentional misspelling of ‘Furthur’ is taken from the bus that American author and 1960s’ trailblazer Ken Kesey took across the U.S. during the early 60s. Regardless of the figurative source of Monk’s paintings, he zooms in on bringing about an objectual physical presence of his pieces, which serves as the conduit for the viewer to explore the experience within the space between them and the paintings.


    A multi-faceted connotation of space is another important concept for Monk’s oeuvre. For him, a work’s sphere of influence is always inclusive of the space within and outside the pictorial plane. The Far-Out Series is meant to create an immersive stereo experience in installation, with large areas of blue and dark voids reaching out of the surface of the canvases, creating an intangible continuity that envelops the viewer, thus bringing awareness to the physical space in between the two. The title Far-Out also indicates the painter’s intention of inviting the viewer to take on a perspective that is larger than life, as they simultaneously experience the physical space and the psychological space beyond. As such, the human element within the context of a painting is established, on which the artist explains, ‘Rather than have a human presence in the work in a traditional narrative sense, I want the viewer to be aware of their own presence in front of the object. I feel to include the human form would act as a barrier to that.’iv



    Installation view of the current work at 
    Amsterdam, Grimm Gallery, Furthur Planetarium!, 28 June - 3 August 2013
    Image: Courtesy of the Artist and GRIMM, Amsterdam | New York.


    It could be said that Monk’s works are more states of mind than locales, as he transforms abstract experiences into a tangible existence. Monk exercises an economy of means that lends itself to visual revelation, where nature’s enduring forms are paired down to reveal their inner brilliance in full glory. Present in equal measure are mundane and sublime forces, feeding the human imagination with a sense of anticipation to the unknown.



    Collector’s Digest


    Born in 1977 in the UK, William Monk now lives and works in New York. After receiving his BA in Fine Art at Kingston University, London in 2000 and completed a two-year residency at De Ateliers in Amsterdam in 2006. He was awarded the Dutch Royal Award for Painting in 2005, which resulted in widespread, ongoing institutional recognition in Northern Europe and the Jerwood Painting Prize in the UK in 2009, followed by a yearlong national touring exhibition. Monk has been exhibiting work globally, and his works are amongst the collections of institutions such as the Kunstmuseum in the Hague, HE Art Museum in Foshan, China, AkzoNobel Art Foundation in Amsterdam and Roberts Institute of Art, London.


    Pace Gallery announced the representation of the artist in 2018. His latest exhibitions include the three-venue exhibition The Ferryman held at Pace Gallery New York and East Hampton, and Grimm Gallery New York (27 May 27 - 5 June 2022), and Point Datum at Pace Hong Kong Gallery (2 December 2020 – 30 January 2021), Mount Atom with Grimm Gallery Amsterdam (2 October – 21 November 2020).



    i Jay Merrick, ‘William Monk’s luminous remains’, Grimm Gallery, 2017, online

    ii Osman Can Yerebakan, ‘William Monk’s Enigmatic Paintings Take Over Three Galleries in New York’, Galerie Magazine, 26 April 2022, online

    iii Jay Merrick, ‘A Fool Through the Cloud’, Ocula, February 2019, online

    iv Milja Ficpatrik, ‘William Monk’, Widewalls, 21 May 2015, online

    • Provenance

      Grimm Gallery, Amsterdam
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Amsterdam, Grimm Gallery, Furthur Planetarium!, 28 June - 3 August 2013


Far-Out III

signed, titled and dated 'William Monk "Far-Out III" 2013' on the reverse
oil on canvas
230.5 x 220.3 cm. (90 3/4 x 86 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

HK$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for HK$2,520,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

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

Hong Kong Auction 1 December 2022