Lot 91
  • 91

Hou Junming (Hou Chunming) B. 1963

40,000 - 60,000 HKD
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  • Hou Junming (Hou Chun-Ming)
  • Tormenting Love
  • Mixed media on newspaper, framed

Signed in Chinese and dated 2003

Catalogue Note

Painting provides the energy that I need to survive, and I paint to fulfill my expectations about life.                                         
 ?/B> Hou Junming

The year 2007 marked the twentieth anniversary for Hou Junming as an artist since his debut at the graduation show in 1987. It was in these two decades that the contemporary Chinese art, as well as the contemporary art scene worldwide, has flourished to an unprecedented realm. It is not exaggerating to say that, even put under the global scenario, Hou stands out as an exceptionally unique being for his avant-garde, his perception, his fearless challenging of the society’s deep-rooted taboo, his capacity to create new iconography and his vivid deployment of the Chinese texts. Every single presentation of his work provoked intensive attention from home and abroad, as a consequence, the artist himself has been a target for debate and study.

Dating back to as early as 1992, Confession of Extreme Ecstasy, Hou’s first massive woodblock print was already produced. The set of eight pieces demonstrated supreme maturity, looking at it today, the work remains as powerful as ever, not a single stroke of it falls behind time. Hou Junming was twenty-nine. The bold, provocative images consisting of straightforward, black-white strokes integrated with the harsh, dolorous texts exploded loudly in then relatively conservative society. Yet, the shocking theme was just one aspect of the busy debate. The format was in question too, though it seems groundless today. Is this woodblock print in the first place? Some critics defined them as “not good print, but carries positive energies? Even more, the making process also offered something for the “verbal war? such as in the case of Searching for Gods: the original texts were fabricated by Hou’s artist friends upon his request. How experimental and modern it was. Up till today, how the subject matter, the media and the format were putting together continue to be unsurpassed. The distinctive characteristics as seen in this virgin piece were passed down onto nearly all his print series: Searching for Gods (1993), Bastard and Bitch (1996), New Paradise (1996), God Hates You (1998).

In 1995, the 46th Venice Biennale, themed Transculture, for the first time established Taiwan Pavilion, Hou was selected to represent Taiwan with Confession of Extreme Ecstasy and Searching for Gods (set of 37 pieces). This was followed by his exhibiting in some prominent contemporary art shows held worldwide including in Copenhagen, Aachen, Germany, Hong Kong, New York, Berlin and Fukuoka, Japan. Undoubtedly speaking, the massive woodblock prints by Hou Junming was a landmark in the 1990s contemporary Chinese art arena.

In the eyes of the eminent contemporary art curator Fumio Nanjo, Hou Junming “uses the technique of woodblock printing to create scenes reminiscent of textbook illustrations. Traces of the handiwork involved in making of the prints are left visible, recalling traditional craft works, and the images are simple and clear. These scenes portraying erotic relations between men and women are accompanied by ethical injunctions, sounding a radical warning to contemporary society.”[1]

Talking about his own work completed before thirty-seven years old (he once believed that he would die at thirty-six), Hou said that he would see it as the “Divining Youth?period. “My early works was nurtured significantly by folk arts. I felt like that the divinity has occupied my body, I was not really myself when making the pieces. The way that I devoted myself too completely to regard any cost or the aggressiveness in my work, did not come out of myself alone. It came into existence because of the intersection of certain time and space, because of certain circumstance, or even because of the frustrations that I experienced.?

We are delighted to include two very significant works by the limitless artist. It is also the first time ever that his work is ever offered at an auction. 

Lot 90, Confession of Extreme Ecstasy, reflecting the artist’s male-centered and phallic ideology, applauds positive attitude in pursuit of love. Immediately struck by the rousing images, the viewer may in the mean time be warmly touched and even enlightened by the poetic texts. Let’s take a look at the rough translation: No one can truly understand what you are doing, yet, you two shall understand each other and cherish each other’s company (fig. 1); Those who over protect themselves will never be completed, you shall dare to give yourself out despite the cost (fig. 2); Strayed away from your hometown leaves you homeless. You shall befriend with people and take any resting place your home; you don’t have a wife, yet, you can take anyone you like as your wife (fig. 3); Floating in the middle of nowhere makes every effort vain, yet, you shall never give up fighting (fig. 4); Sharing your soul is difficult, sharing your flesh is dangerous, you shall learn to be alone and enjoy the solitude (fig. 5); Failure in pursuit of love is the biggest humiliation and frustration in life, yet, the pain of love is still sweeter than all the worldly joy (fig. 6); Don’t fear of your desire, the meaning of life is to nicely and proactively fulfill them (fig. 7); Separating from a woman, you shall wither to death, only by profoundly uniting with a woman in sexual intercourse, your life shall be revived (fig. 8).      

It is not for the sake of the shocking images, but the desire to thread the images and the perceptions together, to challenge the off-the-peg social codes and to create new ones drives Hou Junming to go further and further, said critic Wu Jiexiang. Confession of Extreme Ecstasy was veritably one of Hou’s most recognized works. It was included in the permanent collection of Taipei Fine Arts Museum in 1998.

Since 2000, Hou Junming, recovered from a devastating divorce, has entered into a new phase of his life and his career. He remarried, became a father, and his works were also evolved with these inner and outside changes. The second piece on offer, Buddha in Tormenting Love, lot 91, painted in 2003, was an example of the new transformation.

The painting was the outcome of a project initiated by Hou for himself and two of his artist friends. The three of them imitated, reformed, and subverted each other in theme and in style so as to broaden their own creative horizon.

In consistency to his own peculiarity, Hou amused his audience by successfully transforming a signature image by his artist friend Zhang Liye (B. 1967). The sacred Buddha head was turned into a mere conveyer of his unspeakable feelings.    

1 Contemporary Taiwanese Art: The New Identity, exhibition cat., Japan, Fukuoka, MOMA Contemporary Co., Ltd, 1998, p. 5