Lot 27
  • 27

Wang Huaiqing

Estimate
8,000,000 - 12,000,000 HKD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Wang Huaiqing
  • Elegance
  • oil on canvas
  • 60 by 200 cm.; 23 5/8 by 78 3/4 in.
signed in Chinese, executed in 1998

Provenance

Lin & Keng Gallery, Taipei
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited

Taipei, Lin & Keng Gallery, Wang Huaiqing Solo Show, 2 - 18 January 1999, p. 29
Seattle, Seattle Art Museum, Wang Huaiqing - A Painter's Painter in Contemporary China, 18 November 2010 - 10 April 2011, p. 215

Literature

Works of Wang Huaiqing, Wang Huaiqing, Beijing, 2004, p. 97
Wang Huai Qing, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, 2007, p. 66
Wang Huaiqing, Lin & Keng Gallery, Taipei, 2007, pp. 66-67, 188

Catalogue Note

Elegance extraordinaire with simple grandeur
A mature masterpiece of the 1990s by Wang Huaiqing

As one of China’s most outstanding pioneers at the forefront of the modernist movement, Wang Huaiqing is widely recognized for his contributions and artistic achievements. Using simple methods to delve into profound ideas, he fuses Chinese traditional culture and aesthetics with contemporary language. His works are deeply personal, at the same time encapsulating China’s poetic, historical sweep, thus forging an original artistic path. Renowned Chinese art critic Jia Fangzhou once wrote, “With wisdom and forethought, Wang Huaiqing found points of departure from the sources of traditional culture, crafting a critical stance vis-à-vis his art and tradition, yet also maintaining intrinsic and deep connections between them. From the mid-1980s, he found inspiration from time-honoured wooden architecture and furniture … experimenting with and deconstructing these objects that are innately traditional. He even abandoned the advantages of oil colours, using only the black pigment to further accentuate that purely Chinese artistic sentiment.

Inspirations emanating from wooden furniture first appeared in his Double Chairs (1989-1991). Wang attempts to reduce three-dimensional objects into two dimensions, using sparse brushstrokes in black while incorporating slightly altered shapes. He also purposefully leaves the background empty, removing everyday objects from their original, realistic environments, allowing each to take on its own life and character—which was a monumental feat at that time. He continued to delve deeply into his art, completing an entire series of exciting works. Elegance (1998)  (Lot 27) bears testament to Wang Huaiqing’s mature period, a time that was marked by a carefree artistic spirit.

Turning from minimalism to abstraction

If we look deeper into Wang’s career, 1998 was a special time indeed. In that year, New York’s Guggenheim Museum presented a landmark art exhibition entitled “China: 5,000 Years,” using the vantage point of a learned, historical perspective on the heritage and development of Chinese art, which in turn created much resonance in the West. Wang’s work included in the exhibition, House in a House—Bed of Han Xizai (Han Xizai’s Night Revels 1), received much critical acclaim. Selected by curators Julia Andrews and Kuiyi Shen, the work was emblematic of Wang’s personal yet profound understanding of tradition as well as his creative imagination. After the Guggenheim exhibition drew to a close, Wang was invited to show his works at the German Embassy in Beijing. It was then that he began to attract the attention of the art worl d, as his mature and dauntless sentiments were fully displayed in his output. 

Among the works Wang completed in 1998, Gold Stone, Door as well as Elegance on offer this time, we can detect the artist detaching himself from earlier depictions of Shaoxing houses and traditional Ming-style furniture. Objects of his early period—juxtaposed architectural and structural details, fanciful furniture styles—are no longer featured. Rather, the artist attempts to use larger canvasses to explore singular or a small number of objects as well as spatial interrelation within the composition in search for a minimized, concentrated as well as bolder expressive style. In this painting, the colour black appears on the surface almost like an abstraction, yet it seems imbued with extraordinary power.

Elegance is a fine example of the prowess of Wang’s brushstrokes: despite the artist choosing not to employ the full range of colours at his disposal, what appears on the canvas remains richly textured. A black surface extends diagonally in this rectangular space into one corner, the three straight, short lines turning inward implying this large object might be a Ming-style wooden bed, a piano stool flattened by the artist, or perhaps a square table for an ancient scholar to make poetry, to sing and play his qin. The artist devoted his energy in treating this singular object in relation to its background, delineating its grain and texture, at the same time providing multiple readings into its character and use. That black hue is not pure black, nor is the white pure white, and those familiar with Chinese ink painting know the ideas behind them well: “Black ink contains all five primary colours, it is the mother of all colours; it is not a basic colour but the most complex of all colours in the world.” After some careful observation, one detects not only varying density of the black ink, but a red sheen underneath the black dominating the table surface also shines through. Wooden grains and minute changes in colours fully capture the passage of time, making an otherwise simple object complex, the contrast between the dominating colours of black and white establishing a meaningful dialogue. Wang’s vivid yet almost abstract composition is reminiscent of works by abstract artists Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman displayed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art . Placed side by side, these three pieces seem to relate on a spiritual level, but a unique Asian humanism permeates Wang’s work. As art critic Michael Sullivan observed, “Wang Huaiqing combines the pristine world of Chinese visual art with the visionary spirit of abstract composition of the West, making his works all the more extraordinary.

In this work, Wang did not set out to please the audience; he did not simplify his vocabulary to make it easier on the viewer, but followed an uncompromising path in which he contemplated and executed his art. As such, his art became all the more advanced, leading to his tour de force work a year later, North South East West. In other words, Wang’s 1998 output comprise an important turning point in the artist’s career. After this, Wang achieved complete freedom in his art.

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