Lot 541
  • 541

LIU YE | Mondrian and Angel

2,500,000 - 3,500,000 HKD
5,215,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Liu Ye
  • Mondrian and Angel
  • acrylic and oil on canvas
  • 24 by 24 cm.   9½ by 9½ in.
signed in Chinese, initialled in Pinyin and dated 96


Private Collection, the Netherlands
Borobudur Auction, Singapore, 31 May 2009, Lot 230
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the artist

Catalogue Note

Mondrian and Angel manifests Liu Ye's indebtedness to the pure abstraction of the Dutch De Stijl artist, whose idiom of rectilinear lines and palette of the three primary colours was a powerful influence on the Chinese artist. Images of Mondrian's works rank among Liu Ye's most important and enduring motifs. He first encountered works by Mondrian in 1980 when he enrolled to study industrial design in Beijing Industrial Art School; later, after completing his studies in Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts he spent prolonged periods in Europe - first studying in the Hochschule der Kunste in Berlin in 1994 and later at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in 1998, where he encountered many of the master's works first hand. In Mondrian and Angel, Liu Ye pays his forebear homage. In the upper-centre of the composition Liu Ye incorporates a work by the founder of Neo-Plasticism, half-bathed in the intense yellow light of afternoon sun. In the foreground, a winged cherub, oblivious of the masterpiece above him, stares fixedly through binoculars out a window, of which only an edge is shown. Depicted in what appears to be a contrapposto stance, the cherub evokes the Renaissance notion of viewing a painting as a window on the world. Although he is ostensibly the subject of the painting, when we scrutinise the composition, we notice Liu Ye's formal homage to Mondrian. Everything is carefully orchestrated to Mondrian's aesthetic. The strong horizontals of the floor, echoed in the black binoculars and the shadow cast by the cherub, are offset by the verticals on both edges, especially the black window frame on the right and the blue shadow encroaching from beyond the confines of the canvas. Just as the blue of the Mondrian painting echoes the blue shadows on the cherub, here the powerful lines mimic the structural qualities of the Mondrian, enclosing the flatly painted expanse of the yellow background. As the critic Zhu Zhu explains, "This simplified handling of background lies somewhere between Mondrian's abstraction and the spatial composition of traditional Chinese painting" (Zhu Zhu, 'An Aged Childhood' in Exhibition Catalogue, Bern, Kunstmuseum, Liu Ye, 2007, p. 72).

 As Bernhard Fibicher says, "In his work Liu Ye strives to combine the imagination and sensibility of the fairytale with the strictly rational thinking of philosophy, to obtain a synthesis of eastern art (in his paintings we can trace Chinese but also Japanese influences) and western role models (Mondrian, Barnett Newmann etc.) in strict and at the same time playful visual findings" (Bernhard Fibicher, 'The Squaring of the Fairytale' in Ibid, p. 13). As such, Mondrian and ANgel is the perfect synthesis of East and West, the rational and the irrational, a knowing and reverential parody of Western art in a quintessentially Chinese idiom.