As 'Modern Art Online: From Zao Wou-Ki to Le Pho' opens, we usher in the month of June by inviting our modern art experts at Sotheby's to share their personal favourites from the auction. The weeklong online event presents a wonderful opportunity for budding and established collectors alike to acquire works by the most significant names from the modern era. With abstract pieces by Zao Wou-Ki or Chu Teh-Chun, striking floral compositions by Le Pho, vibrant paper works by Walasse Ting, elegant ink and brush works by Chen Wen Hsi, or images of Asia seen through the eyes of 20th century European artists such as Theo Meier and Han Snel, Sotheby's specialists introduce their highlights within the diverse range of works offered in the upcoming sale.
Rishika Assomull, Specialist of Modern Art, Asia
I tend to curate my personal space with beautiful yet functional objects, such as Truong Van Thanh’s lacquer cabinet, as well as a variety of paintings hailing from diverse geographies, mediums and art movements – each artwork drawing me into its own story.
Le Pho’s Flowers is one of the most striking Wally-Findlay period floral compositions by the artist that I have ever laid my eyes on! The painting features a lush bouquet in an antique, porcelain vase, perched on a table overlooking a garden abundant with foliage and greenery. Le Pho subtly plays with the semantics of art itself by juxtaposing modernity and antiquity: if you look closely, you will see an image of a table and vase depicted on the vase itself, serving as a picture within a picture.
Hilo Chen’s photorealistic painting Bed Room 16-S also portrays a vibrant bouquet flowers in its foreground, which elegantly obscures part of the otherwise voyeuristic view of a lounging nude gazing towards her own reflection. The small size of Chen’s picture makes me feel as though I am peering into a private moment. In direct contrast to this intimate scene is a magnificent, large-scale painting by Niti Wattuya, which almost envelopes the observer in a wash of light yellow. Man, Gold and River features silhouettes of figures overlooking a scene of boats motioning towards the viewer’s space.
Jestina Tang, Junior Specialist of Modern Art, Asia
Vietnamese artist Le Pho, Chinese artists Zao Wou-Ki and Walasse Ting embarked on journeys to France during 1930s and 1950s to develop their artistic careers. It is enlightening to see the works by these three Asian masters presented side by side, showcasing their respective artistic achievements upon arrival at Paris. Le Pho's Flowers reinvents the charm of oriental floral aesthetics with an impressionist touch. Zao Wou-Ki, on the other hand, immersed into the post-war abstract art movement at full speed, and his style is reminiscent of Eastern brushwork so profoundly illustrated on the hand-painted ceramic work Stèle 03. Walasse Ting developed deep friendships with members of the avant-garde CoBrA group during his stay in France, and later moved to New York where he met with the members of the School of New York. Four Ladies demonstrates Ting's various sources of stylistic inspiration, as the artist elegantly portrays the splendor and beauty of the world with ink and splashes
Michelle Yaw, Specialist of Modern Art, Asia
Modern Abstraction movements traversed continents and are reinterpreted by artists in their local and respective contexts. Several lots in the auction thread between legible images and pure expression form and colour. As a Chinese person living in Singapore, I’ve always been drawn towards the connectivity between the overseas Chinese who moved to Southeast Asia and Chinese artists who lived in the West and the rest of Asia.
Chen Wen Hsi’s The Mountain is Young reflects the Guangdong born artist’s mastery of the ink brush and is published in one of Chen’s early catalogues. The lightness of Chen’s strokes, delicate splatters of bright blue pigment brings to mind the musicality of Chu Teh Chun’s shanshui inspired melodic compositions, aptly demonstrated in Joyous Moment. The lithograph shows the watery effects within Chu’s pink and orange hues, as well as the swiftness of his hand. A kaleidoscopic palette of warm hues and Cubist inspired forms, Han Snel’s Market Scene, Bali is a masterful example of the Dutch artist’s signature style. The silhouettes of women dancing amongst the rhythmic curves and vibrant shapes of Snel’s lively composition, reflects an innovative merger of geometric abstract and Balinese culture.
Ziwei Yi, Cataloguer of Modern Art, Asia
The philosophy of colour is crucial to the interpretation of the mystery of nature. Through the juxtaposition and reconstruction of colours, artists can visualise their emotions and break through the established aesthetic boundaries. For example, André Brasilier uses shades of emerald green in Eglise to create a rich-layered imagery, transforming the actual landscape into a midsummer dreamland, where life roams free. In Hong Ran, Hsiao Chin combines calligraphic brush strokes with geometric colour blocks, and captures the spirit of the mighty universe. Theo Meier’s tropical-hued palette in Flowers echoes the colour intensity of Fauvism, immersing the viewers within the vitality of nature.