Ang Kiukok’s works are some of the most recognizable and iconic to come out of the Philippines, cementing him in the pantheon of modern Southeast Asian art. Studying under Vicente Manansala, he boldly fused the best of Cubism, Surrealism and Expressionism to create an enduring visual language, carving out his own distinct path with strong Cubist lines and compelling visual allegory. In recognition of his innovation, Ang was later inducted into the Order of National Artists for Visual Arts in 2001. Plant on Table (1975) is one of the artist’s signature technical studies on abstraction and perspective, adopting the classical practice of the still-life, but also fully making it his own.
Ang held a lasting preoccupation for painting still-life works, which chronicled his artistic evolution from his Modernist period to the Cubist-Expressionism that made his name. Ang’s still-life work then showcased his attention to order and composition. In the present lot, Ang interprets and filters objects and settings of the real world – the plant and the table – through an abstract, fragmented lens. The legs of the table and the plant’s leaves are painted in sharp geometric angles, as though they have been broken up and then reassembled. Rather than assuming a fixed, single point of view overlooking the plant in the convention of still-life works, Ang’s cubist style combines multiple viewpoints into a single canvas, creating a kaleidoscope of rigid planes and lines. In this work, these organic and commonplace objects are now made unfamiliar and severe.
Ang’s colors are precisely chosen – Plant on Table features a predominantly cool, restrained palette of lighter and navy blues darkening to grey and black, offset by segments of white. Dark blue and black shades border the corners of the frame, as if slowly encroaching into the center. Accents of orange across the center of the canvas provide a visual anchor and spots of warmth in an otherwise cool frame. Complex-looking and enigmatic, Plant on Table is an example of Ang’s radical transformations of conventional art forms, and displays his deep mastery of line, shape and coloring.
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