Lot 1
  • 1

Henry Hudson

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  • Henry Hudson
  • Plate 1, Leaving China - New Hope
  • varnished plasticine on board
  • 183 by 245cm.; 72 by 96 1/2 in.
  • Executed in 2014.

Catalogue Note

The first plate of the series introduces its protagonist, Young Sen, who is about to depart his hometown in China to study medicine at King’s College in London. With the prestigious institution’s offer safely tucked into his backpack, Young Sen waves his parents goodbye, their hopes and wishes set on the promising young talent. At the back, the bus that will take Young Sen to his next destination awaits with its door open ajar, ready to depart towards a brilliant future.

The present scene is set in contemporary China, where the energy and power of this Asian giant meet the country’s ancient traditions. The landscape shows a mix of old and new; on the left of the composition skyscrapers and factories rise to the sky and neon billboards advertise the biggest and most recognisable brands, whilst on the right traditional-style buildings house local food shops, a temple, and even a brothel.

The departure of Young Sen is an event within the local community, and the workers at the factory of technology giant Foxconn, where his parents work, have gathered at its gates to see him leave. To the far left, Young Sen’s girlfriend cries huddled next to her boyfriend’s family. In the meantime, the daily hustle and bustle continues its course at the small Chinese town. Animals roam the street while the local inhabitants go about their daily chores; a woman washes clothes, seemingly unaware that the waters of the stream nearby are contaminated. An elderly man plays the Erhu - or Southern Fiddle - and the local food shop is open and serving dim sum and lacquered duck amongst other dishes. Two Western tourists are visiting this poor side of town, taking pictures of the local scene unaware that they are being pickpocketed. At the background of the composition, a group of policemen are beating a protester, whose placard in defence of a free Tibet lies on the floor nearby. The country’s political past is further emphasised in this scene by a poster of Chairman Mao, which hangs on one of the façades on the left.

For this introductory scene, Hudson has borrowed the earthy palette and amber tonalities from Egon Schiele’s Wilted Sunflowers – the Austrian painter’s own homage to Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. The sky, with its rivulets of plasticine, was inspired by Edward Munch’s The Scream, which is further echoed by the highly textured, contouring clouds. At the bottom of the composition, a far more contemporary reference sets the tone for the whole series; Ai Weiwei’s Coca Cola Vase lies in the dirty waters, bringing focus to the conflict between preserving the old and embracing the new, the East and the West.