Upon beholding Red Ceiling, the viewer is immediately immersed in a sea of red, creating an effect that is at once powerful, mysterious and mesmerizing. Incredibly rare and unique among Ay Tjoe Christine's corpus, Red Ceiling depicts a simple composition. The picture plane appears to be filled with only two colours, red and white, with the former dominating two thirds of it. Yet behind the stillness and simplicity, close observation reveals that the area of red consists of numerous angular fragments of different intensity, like the facets of a ruby gemstone or a bed of rose petals.
The varying shades of red - cadmium, iron red, fuchsia, rust, burgundy, scarlet, cardinal, vermillion, raspberry, brick, flame, auburn – applied with a combination of deft strokes and different degrees of transparency, create the contrasting impression of flickering movement and swirling energy. Scattered motifs of black evokes the imagination about something hidden underneath the conglomerated fragments. The tension lies between stillness, pressure and simmering energy. Savage and elegant at the same time, reminiscent of the staccato movements of a contemporary ballet dance, the painting's clean surface is brimming with suppressed emotion underneath painterly gestures.
Red Ceiling also exemplifies Ay Tjoe Christine's constant preoccupation with lines and structure, which can be observed as early as 2002, in her Bangunan (Building) series, where it manifested visually as architectural elements, all the way to the Lama Sabakthani works (2010), where structure is no longer a visual aesthetic but part of the creation process. A more amorphous concern with this element is implied in the Layers and Circles series (2011-present), in which structure refers to her view on the rules and regulations of life, be it spiritual or philosophical.
The way Ay Tjoe melds figuration and abstraction shows the importance of how each element is conceived and how they engage with one another visually. Indeed, even the title expresses her fixation with this concept. Ay Tjoe once confided that she has a penchant for organization and neatness, placing scattered objects around her home inside a box. It is an act that perhaps expresses her fascination with the methodology of putting things, whether literal or symbolic, in their place. After 2010, there is a discernible difference in Ay Tjoe's paintings; the lines are more liberated, the strokes more evocative. In this regard, Red Ceiling, dated 2009 to 2010, is a highly important work, as it marks a turning point in her life. It expresses the perpetual push and pull to find balance between emotion and reason, the heart and the mind. No matter how these fragments are stacked and pressured together, there are parts that inevitably spill over, seeping ever so slightly but inexorably, into the empty white background. A powerful visualization of the journey of the soul, Red Ceiling is austere, intense and emotionally gripping, but it is also emblematic of the power of passion and life which Ay Tjoe embraces dearly.
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