Zhang Huan - Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, February 12, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection
    Sotheby's, London, Contemporary Art Evening, 15 February 2012, Lot 57
    Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Producing works in a variety of mediums including performance, photography, sculpture and painting, Zhang Huan is one of the most prolific contemporary artists working today. Since his return to China, Huan’s work has become focused on the ideas of collective and individual memory as well as the sentiments of spirituality and shared experience. Both political and spiritual, Huan examines themes of identity and history from a personal and vulnerable position.

    The present lot, Callipers, is part of the artist’s most recognised series of ash paintings. In an incredibly laborious process, Huan collects ash from burned incense in Buddhist temples and then arduously sorts it into categories of gradation and texture in order to reproduce in acute detail humble portraits taken from old photographs. The photographs from which the images are sourced feature anonymous figures in various situations typical of a distant way of life; Huan uses them to spark a shared collective memory held by a nation.

    These works also explore how memory and spirituality relate to Buddhist practice. The ash, retaining some of the sweet scent it released in the temple, continues to fill the room in which the work is displayed. As one of the strongest triggers of memory, scent plays a powerful role in the reception of these works: the viewer is able to share in the prayers of those who burned the incense in the shrine and those who are depicted on the canvas, creating poignant, permeable layers of collective memory and experience.



ash, charcoal, resin on canvas
200 x 150 cm (78 3/4 x 59 in.)
Signed and dated in English and Chinese 'Zhang Huan 2008' on the reverse.

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £86,500

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Head of Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 13 February 2015 2pm