Modern dance possesses a strong expressionistic quality. Unlike ballet or Chinese dance, which convey certain specific content via established dance forms, modern dance offers a large degree of freedom for dancers to expressive themselves, their intuitions as well as their subconscious ideas, allowing dance as an art form to return to the instincts of the body, while extending it to the exploration of pure physical vocabularies. In post-modern art, Automatism and Action Painting share similar concepts as modern dance. Artists such as Jackson Pollock and Kazuo Shiraga applied paint onto the canvas using their bodies’ rhythm, the creative process was guided by the subconscious mind and chance played a large role in it. Among the second generation of Chinese artists who travelled overseas, Lalan was uniquely skilled in visual art as well as performing arts, responding to the epoch-marking art theories with her exceptional talents. For her, the principles behind the composition of a painting were the same as music making and choreography, as she said: “the movement of painting is guided by the sound and movements existing inside one’s body.” Her creative outputs spanned across different domains from music, dance through to painting, and stood as mesmerizingly rhythmic and dynamic examples of the L’art synthèse creative approach. The present lot, Untitled (Lot 1007), completed in the 1970s, is an outstanding example of such an avant-garde artistic style and a perfect embodiment of the unique aesthetic sense of the artist who pursued her artistic endeavours in France.
The artist was fond of incorporating dance into painting, and placed a strong emphasis on the sense of space. Large-format compositions were best positioned to carry her lines and compositions which were guided by postures of the physical bodies. Her brushstrokes echo the rhythm of dance, whilst the twisting and turning of the lines correspond to the spiralling and turning movements of the dancer. Simultaneously, the sense of movements in her brushstrokes display a dynamic power of the brush that belongs to traditional Chinese calligraphy. In Untitled, the coloured ink was rendered in multiple layers to create the effect of evocative mist and clouds. Thin, intricate lines extend from the centre of the painting towards the edges, swinging at will, the result simultaneously soft, beautiful, elegant yet filled with tension, expressing a strong sense of delicate rhythm and poetry. If viewing from another perspective, the organisation of these lines bear resemblance to a wave diagram of a piece of digital music. Lalan did not depict objects with a figurative approach, yet her works often convey the natural spirit and rhythm of Chinese landscape paintings. The gentle and delicate lines outline the shape of the mountains, whilst a soaring mountain peak against clear blue sky comes to mind when viewing the orange-red element in the middle of the painting. Such clear and brightly contrasting colours perfectly balance the dark rusty-brown colours at the lower part of the painting, complementing each other to construct a state of painting in which yin and yang are both present. Untitled was inspired by a paradise-like place rarely reached by visitors. In its composition, one could see the influence of the expressive style of the “one-corner composition” by Southern Song dynasty master painters Xia Gui and Ma Yuan, the abstract, expressive spirit of using simply one corner of the scenery to imply the phenomenon beyond observations. The artist’s works profoundly echo the philosophical essence of the East, through which she ingeniously entered the domain of Western abstract paintings, demonstrating the richness of Untitled in which elements of East and West coexist harmoniously.
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