Lot 8
  • 8

Xie Nanxing

250,000 - 350,000 RMB
2,124,000 RMB
bidding is closed


  • Xie Nanxing
  • Untitled (Ambiguous Flower No. 4)
  • oil on canvas
signed in Chinese and Pinyin and dated 1998 on the reverse


Xie Nanxing Paintings: 1992-2004, Timezone 8 Limited, Beijing, China, 2004, p. 48
Xie Nanxing Paintings: 1992-2008, Timezone 8, Beijing, China, 2008, 98

Catalogue Note

Born in 1970, Xie Nanxing participated in the 1999 Venice Biennale with an exhibition of a series of portraits, thus launching him to international acclaim. Since then, he has exhibited extensively worldwide, including at the Kassel Documenta (2007) and the Shanghai Biennial (2000). He has undoubtedly become an important figure among young artists today, but is unique in that he distinguished himself from the majority of his fellow artists in mainland China who favoured a clear symbolism. Instead, he chose to accentuate techniques, cultural references and the intricate theoretical dimensions. He let go of the conventional narrative approach of painting and focused on exploring the role of ‘easel painting’ as a medium. His art generates dialogues with international image production practise and media language. Interestingly his pieces do not share much common place with the general art scene in his native south-western China.

Untitled (Ambiguous Flower No.4) was created in 1998 and it came from the same series of works shown at the 1999 Venice Biennale. Works from this period are typical of his figural series in the early 1990s, and are prototypes of his later semi-abstract works, as well as his recent abstract works. From Untitled (Ambiguous Flower No.4), we see him consciously blurring out the formal aspect of the painting. Human figures are rendered in a unified blue, with each of their identities and characters hidden in the black background. The flower in the foreground is the subject of this work but it is even more blurred out than the figures and creates a stark contrast against the male figures behind. The figures stand out from the black background, revealing all the uncertainties of their mental states. Within the black background, hints of occasional shimmers fuse with the two figures, emphasising the loneliness in a vast city. Not only is this work a personal exploration in Xie Nanxing’s artistic journey, it also captures the essential psychological state of China in the 1990s.

For the decade after the creation of this work, Xie Nanxing’s art gradually evolved from semi-abstraction to total abstraction, erasing any hint of narration on the canvas. Image itself has become his key theme of work. During his creative process, he would focus himself on the abstraction of content, through which the abstraction of image would come along naturally, with further juxtaposition of calligraphy elements. Untitled (Ambiguous Flower No.4) is a crucial starting point of this artistic exploration.