- Walasse Ting
Do You Like Chrysanthemum?
acrylic and crayon on canvas
- 30 x 40 inches
Important Private American Collection
Important Private American Collection
Apricot Trees with Red Blossoms Bustle with Vernal Vitality
"In the morning I paint, spending time with flowers and the sun. At night, I like to go out and eat, sitting amidst the crowds, surrounded by women as beautiful as flowers. I drink and I look at these women, who are strangers. That is having a good time... While painting large canvasses until late at night, and from the late night to dawn, I often feel a lot of sadness and a lot of happiness. These emotions come and go at lightning speed. I often speak with birds and play with cats. I long for a gorgeous woman who'd spend the rest of my life with me." Walasse Ting's prose opens a window into the artist's carefree attitude and joie de vivre, but at the same time revealing his sentimentality. He has never concealed his enthusiasm for art and his love for beautiful objects—be they flowers, women, animals—in the world. Applying his brushstrokes, Walasse Ting the "Flower Thief" captured the splendour he saw and feelings that filled his soul, resenting them right before our eyes.
Born in Wuxi in 1928, Ting was an internally renowned Chinese artist most noted for his unbridled brushstrokes and expert use of vibrant colours. The speed and ease with which he painted have left many in awe. During his lifetime, Ting lived in metropolises both East and West; his works the cultural fusions of both. Shanghai was Ting's childhood home; then he moved to Hong Kong. The aesthetics of traditional ink and brush painting of the East influenced him through osmosis. During this period, Ting devoted most of his energies to sketches and watercolours; he also created numerous monochromatic paintings. Ting went to Paris in 1952, when he befriended artists from the COBRA movement, changing his artistic outlook. During his visits to the many distinguished museums, Ting's horizons broadened, especially with Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. These twomasters' daring portraits of sex and desire prompted Ting to break down barriers as he embarked on an exploration on the subject of sex, adding abstract metaphors into his paintings.
In 1958, Ting moved to New York during the heyday of abstractionism and Pop Art. His works also evolved from monochromes to vibrant colours and multiple hues. Ting even tried splashing and dribbling paints freely on top of lines drawn in ink. During that time, he was keen to explore the sense of speed in executing art. He often used fast drying acrylic paints, and his works evolved from abstract form to semi-representational figures. Ting's life in New York presented a turning point in his artistic career. By the 1970s, his works bore the marks of artistic maturity. They appeared to be daily chronicles of his manifold fanciful imaginings, as well as his contented life interacting with women, flowers and animals. Ting's unique and personal style has taken the art world by storm, and his output has been collected by many all over the world, including internationally-renowned institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, Tate Modern, the Guimet Musée National des Arts Asiatiques in Paris, and the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.
Sotheby's is offering an American private collection that comprises ten pieces by Walasse Ting for sale. These works, spanning 1970 to the 1980s, include sketches, oil paintings and his trademark acrylic on rice paper (xuanzhi), having never been offered in the market before. Together they are records of the artist's creative whim and individuality. We find in the vivacity and modern aura of traditional Chinese women accentuated by the Western technique of thick splashes of colours that are layered in Do You Like Chrysanthemum? (Lot 505) and Do You Like My Cat? (Lot 506). Yet I Eat Spring (Lot 510) is distinctly drawn in freehand channelling the artist's bold and unrestrained emotions. And the triptych Two Ladies and Two Horses (Lot 507) is a rarity: Walasse Ting composed his figures and background with such audacity by contrasting phosphorescent green with fuchsia, juxtaposing the disproportionately-sized horses standing around two women holding flowers, bringing to the composition a sense of balance and completion amidst ornamentalism, the uninhibited nature of Fauvism and the delicacy of ink painting of the East. Perhaps these are the artist's ultimate goals, just as he once wrote: "I apply many many colours on canvas to express my feelings. I spend my life painting, to portray freshness, just like when spring awakens. The women, cats, flowers, birds on canvas portrayfreshness, that beauty that's within freshness."
Walasse Ting's paintings remind us of Tang dynasty poet Wei Zhuang's lyrics set to the tune Buddhist Dancer from The Floral Collection: Please get drunk tonight to drown your sorrows / Speak not of tomorrow since the wine jug is in front of you / Thank you, host, for your kindness / I accept your hospitality with delight / You might worry that spring is short / Do not complain of full cups but take them in haste / Rejoice in laughter when there's wine / How often is life filled with such happiness? Walasse Ting was just like the generous host depicted by Wei Zhuang, except he didn't offer us fine wines. He only provided us with flowers that bloom in eternity, beautiful and beguiling women who remain as fresh as Spring, peacocks showing off its feathers, eye-catching colours and that carefree mindset. These are the fine wines that intoxicate us as we float about this vibrant world amidst the aura of a Spring day.