Lot 234
  • 234

Pham An Hai

80,000 - 120,000 HKD
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  • Pham An Hai
  • Yellow Autumn
  • Signed and dated 2011
  • Oil on canvas
  • 100 by 200 cm.; 39 1/4 by 78 3/4 in.


The work is in good condition overall, as is the canvas. There are indications of minor wear and handling to the edges, but paint layers are well preserved and stable. Under ultraviolet light inspection, there is no evidence of retouching. Framed.
"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

Pham An Hai is recognized as one of the leading abstract painters in Southeast Asia, and is associated with the first generation of Vietnamese artists who separated themselves from the social realist movement. Pham grew up under the social reforms of Ho Chi Minh’s government. During this period Vietnam became increasingly nationalistic, which had repercussions on the society, with art being no exception. Social realism was revered as the artistic norm. Other movements however, such as abstract and expressionist art were not widely accepted, as consequence of their non-uniformity status. It was only with the Doi Moi economic reform in 1986, that government restrictions became increasingly more relaxed. It may be said that these reforms encouraged Pham’s interest in abstract art, for they allowed artists to experiment with creative styles, that only a few years earlier were out of their reach.

In 1985 Pham enrolled at the Hanoi Fine Arts & Music College where he majored in painting. His style at this time was largely inspired by expressionist and surrealist ideals. In 1990 he returned to study painting at the Hanoi Fine Arts Institute. His paintings became increasingly personal, and autobiographical, as a result of an unfortunate road accident in 1997 that left him blind in one eye. The loss of perception frustrated him greatly, however it also gave him the opportunity to reconnect with himself. During his recovery, Pham went through a period of self-reflection while relying on his intuition to help guide his brush. This was very rewarding in terms of individual expression, as seen by the dramatic brushstrokes, and dreamlike color palette in the works. Pham’s paintings possess a genuine spirit, for the human heart is also a complex matter.

With this new confidence Pham began to explore different themes in his works, such as his romantic and historical memories of growing up in Hanoi. However, he found that these memories had been distorted by the city’s urban developments, over-population and pollution. With this discovery, Pham dedicated his brush towards the “rediscovery of Hanoi’s essence and to understand the rationality of its new status as an urban metropolis.”1 Through the pictorial representation of the seasons, a constant factor in Hanoi’s changing façade, Pham illustrated the different faces of his city with a fresh perspective.

Landscapes and village life are common motifs in Vietnamese paintings. In Yellow Autumn Pham adapts these traditional subjects into a contemporary setting, resulting in a fusion of old and new ideals. The colors are bright, surreal, and yet familiar, bringing to mind images of golden leaves in fall, or the light from the setting sun decorating the city streets. The black brushstrokes boldly running across the canvas are reminiscent of asphalt roads, while the hints of dark green are suggestive of vegetation. Though the work is abstract, these associations with color and their arrangement on the canvas, allows the viewer to easily imagine the cityscape.

Although Pham may have had a specific location in mind, his personal relationships are intertwined with the subject matter. Therefore the painting Yellow Autumn is not merely a depiction of Hanoi in the fall. Rather Pham has painted a home—a universal concept that transcends language, place and time.

1Naziree, Shireen. Pham An Hai: Expressions & Abstractions. Bangkok, 2007, p.13.