Lot 36
  • 36

Jia Aili

70,000 - 100,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Jia Aili
  • Untitled (man with a helmet)
  • signed
  • oil on canvas
  • 50 by 40cm; 19 5/8 by 15 3/4 in.
  • Executed in 2012.


Collection of the artist

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Singapore, Singapore Art Museum, Seeker of Hope: Works by Jia Aili, 2012, p. 70, illustrated in colour


Song Shu and Hong Yan, Ed., Yishu Zhongguo Niandu Yishujia 5 Jia Aili, Sichuan 2012, p. 84, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Untitled (man with a helmet), 2012, shows a figure in semi-profile wearing a Chinese fighter pilot helmet and face mask, depicted against a blank black background. The combination of the solitary figure, with the overtly Chinese iconography is typical of Jia Aili’s works: an effect he uses to make reference to the introverted generation created by the one-child policy. Aili grew up in 1980s rural China when this policy was in full effect, and the endemic loneliness of a country raised without siblings proliferates throughout his oeuvre.

The Chinese helmet jars slightly with Aili’s mode of depiction: the work is completed in oils, with the deft bravura style of the most skilled painters of the Western canon. The use of single brushstrokes to articulate reflections and delineate shadows suggests a confidence in the medium that reveals the artist’s classical training in the Luxun Academy of Fine Arts. This contrast is surely another reference to Aili’s generation and their position in Chinese history. The fading red star on the crest of the high-tech helmet is microcosmic of the way the socialist values of Aili’s forebears gave way to increasing Chinese emphasis on technological progress.

In his use of the helmet, Aili precludes any interaction between viewer and sitter. It is common for the figures in Aili’s works to have their faces hidden by masks, but here the artist takes it one step further in covering the figure’s visor with a conspicuously tied on cloth. This may make reference to China’s censorship laws, or simply further emphasise the introspective solitude of the one-child generation. In any case, it heralds this work as a prime example of the themes and motifs that have characterised Aili’s oeuvre and elevated his works to the level they have reached today.