Lot 1024
  • 1024

He Duoling

1,000,000 - 1,300,000 HKD
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  • He Duoling
  • Two Young People
  • oil on canvas
signed in pinyin and dated 97, framed


Beijing, National Art Museum, Songs of Grief and Worry, An Exhibition of He Duoling's Oil Painting, 2006
Shanghai, Shanghai Museum, A Retrospective of He Duoling's Oil Painting, 2006
Nanjing, Nanjing Square Gallery of Contemporary Art, An Exhibition of He Duoling's Oil Painting, 2006


Contemporary Chinese Art Anthology: He Duoling, Mountain Art, 1997, p. 185
He Duoling: Songs of Grief and Worry, Sichuan, 2006, pp. 128-129


Some very minor scattered paint flakes, some of which have been retouched. Minor abrasions and minor paint cracks along the bottom edge. Otherwise generally in good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The landscape of Chinese contemporary art has undergone many dramatic changes over the past two decades. From the early 1990's, works reflecting the fast-changing socio-economic and political climate of China in the late 20th century have gradually become of the primary source of inspiration for contemporary artists in mainland China, replacing the Socialist Realist theme of depicting national heroes and idealistic portraits, and the classical beauty of the Chinese countryside that was produced through the 1970's and 1980's.

Deviating from this trend, however, are some artists who still pursue an art detached from any socio-political connotations, instead striving for a pure and innocent aesthetic. He Duoling is one such artist.

From the out start of He's artistic career, he chose to disassociate his art from any concurrent socio-political trend. In 1981, when his work Spring Breeze is Awake was published in Meishu, certain critics suggested that the work reflected the relaxation of the attitudes of the Chinese Communist Party towards art and culture following the Cultural Revolution. In response He Duoling published a letter in Meishu proclaiming that the work simply portrayed an innocent scene of rustic life: a girl with a cow in grassland, and did not carry any subversive message or metaphorical message which might reflect any current political circumstance.

It is true that the early 1980s witnessed the softening of official attitudes towards literature and the arts, however it would have required a lot of courage for an artist to advocate his indifference to politics in such an explicit way at that time. Throughout his career, He Duoling continued to produce work that remained detached from the concurrent political climate, instead focusing on a painterly aesthetic of pure sentimentality, innocence and mystery.

His painting technique reflects a minimalism with subdued colours, plain backgrounds and a simplistic figural style. Two such examples of such work are offered in this auction: Untitled (Lot 1025) and Two Young People (Lot 1024). In these two works, He Duoling uses a plain background to create a sense of illusion. In Two Young People, the young couple is set against an empty white background, while in Untitled, a mirror reflects the image of a young woman. In this way, the two paintings allow the viewer to focus on the main protagonists without being distracted by a detailed background composition.

With a minimal rendition of settings and figures, senses of ambiguity and sentimentality are successfully conveyed in the two works. In Two Young People, the man holds the woman from behind in an awkward manner, looking aimlessly out, while the woman, portrayed with few indications of her femininity with her short hair and heavy shirt, looks similarly awkward and confused in this supposedly romantic scene. Sadness, compromised with displacement of love are conveyed in the work. In Untitled, the woman stares out of the work through the mirror, allowing the viewer to experience the woman's loneliness at this private moment at night.

 Among the contemporary artists of China today, He Duoling is a master of creating a sense of poetic romanticism and mysterious beauty in his work. He strives for an art of eternal purity and sentimentality, appreciation of which persists through time regardless of ideological or cultural change.