Lot 1067
  • 1067

CHRISTINE AY TJOE | The Flying Balloon

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 HKD
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  • Christine Ay Tjoe
  • The Flying Balloon
  • Signed and dated 13; signed, titled, inscribed and dated 2013 on the reverse
  • Oil on canvas
  • 170 by 200 cm; 67 by 78 3/4  in.



Tokyo, Ota Fine Arts, Myriad of "Paste", 21 September – 9 November 2013


Myriad of ‘"Paste": Ay Tjoe Christine, Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo, 2013, p. 5-6, color illustration In 2015, Christine Ay Tjoe’s Flying Balloon achieved the prestigious “Best Emerging Artist Using Painting” award at the Prudential Eye Awards in 2015.


This work is in good overall condition as viewed. There is some faint paint shrinkage at the light brown form in the upper left quadrant, but this is only visible upon very close inspection. All inconsistencies are due to the artist's working method. Examination under ultraviolet light reveals no sign of restoration as viewed. Unframed, on a stretcher.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

“When you breathe in you’ll lift like a balloon
and your heart is light too & huge,
beating with pure joy, pure helium.
The sun’s white winds blow through you,
there’s nothing above you,
you see the earth now as an oval jewel,
radiant & seablue with love.”
Excerpt from Flying Inside Your Own Body by Margaret Atwood Whimsically enchanting and rife with metaphor Flying Balloon is a buoyantly alluring example of Christine Ay Tjoe’s remarkable abstract lexicon. Oscillating between balletic harmony and eruptive energy, Flying Balloon manifests a prancing array of fragmented abstract forms and curious remnants of pictorial elements. A symphonic mélange of blushing pinks, baby blues and browns, the composition exudes a childlike quality, yet it possesses a provocative underbelly. Ay Tjoe’s works are tremendously personal and powerfully universal. The Bandung-born artist employs an intimate visual language, asserted through the potency of the drawn line. Harnessing the subjectivity of her own spiritual and emotional experiences, she communicates the joyous, as well as the abject, with great efficacy. Completed in 2013 as the artist experiences young motherhood in her personal life, Ay Tjoe’s Flying Balloon is an immensely layered work conveying the intricate complexities of human life in vibrant rhapsody.

First shown at the artist’s first solo exhibition in Japan, titled ‘Myriad of Paste’, Flying Balloon is emblematic of the materiality and sense of action in her signature work. Through a process of accumulation and repetition, the artist builds layer upon layer, line after line, amorphous forms and images in splendid disarray.  Drawing remains at the core of Ay Tjoe’s practice, she has declared “To me, painting on canvas is also like drawing” as she pushes the expressive boundaries of the oil bar – one of her signature mediums. Trained in graphic design and printmaking at the Bandung Institute of Technology, Ay Tjoe still experiments with intaglio dry point technique and etching. These skills are integral in her opus, forming the backbone of her signature, variegated textures of colour fields and enthralling lines, demarcating her work as one of unparalleled originality.

Growing up in a household of working parents, she recalls spending much of her childhood in solitude, often playing with self-made dolls at home. Ay Tjoe produced this series of paintings when her own child was a toddler and drew inspiration from everyday objects or tools she encountered in her daily life. In Flying Balloon, remnants of toys, animals and elements of play, infiltrate the larger masses of colour, skirting the borders between physical and metaphysical. The curator Agung Hujatnikajenonng notes of the 2013 show “These paintings offer a composition that delivers ‘a balance’ in an erratic, yet sublime, manner. The traces of the artist’s direct and intuitive expressions are persuading ‘the order’ to reach its most improbable limit".[1]

The titular work focuses on the simple motif of a balloon, shown as an oval shape bearing a smiling, cartoon-like face. Mimetic of a child’s drawing, the balloon floats amidst a crescendo of distorted shapes and lines, its airy quality unfettered by the explosion of colour across the canvas. An enchanting part of childhood experience, balloons continue to enthral and fascinate, beckoning us to hold on tight, for if you let go, it will fly away into invisibility. Ay Tjoe draws other vague images, insects, animals, a bright blue toy train, a bottle, a boomerang, paint tubes, and a stuffed doll, scattering them all over the composition. Yet the work is not purely ‘sweet’ or ‘kitshy’ as these images evolve into fragmented states and are broken up by the artist’s vigorous lines and rubbings. At the foreground, a bright turquoise train set seems to emerge out of, or perhaps, enter a swarming dark void. These wraithlike pictorial elements give way to the nebulous movement, conveying a strong sense of flux between chaos and harmony, delicacy and strength, innocence and absurd.

The canvas is adorned with electrified lines that dance across the masterpiece with a syncopated rhythm, exuding a buoyant dynamism specific to Ay Tjoe’s abstractions. The vigour of Ay Tjoe’s forceful lines coalesce with softer shapes. With the oil bar, she enacts each stroke upon the surface with whimsy and improvisation, and in certain areas, she uses her hands to rub the lines with her own palms, directly engaging with the piece. The resulting effect is a visceral medley of grey, pink and red fields, each rendered in the artist’s idiosyncratic style.

Flying Balloon is a refreshing insight into the psyche of Christine Ay Tjoe and her reflections on societal issues. She emphasises, “My interest point is human beings,” as she seeks to “talk more about what will happen in terms of human trends, local or global; what I see as possibilities in my mind, personal ideas.”[2] Animated and teaming with energy, dark circular splotches of brown appear across the composition, each engraved with a facial expression or “x” cross demarcations. Employing her etching techniques, the artist scratches the surface of the oil pigment to reveals different “faces”: a smiley face, a sad face, a laughing face or a shocked face. These simplified expressions on one hand echo the childish drawing of the balloon, on the other hand hint towards the saturated and prolific use of “emoticons” in contemporary culture. The naivety and almost comical nature of these motifs flatten the complexity of human emotion and articulates Ay Tjoe’s contemplative engagement with society. The enigmatic complexity of the piece draws the viewer into the vivid dialogue of Ay Tjoe’s abstract vernacular, provoking introspection on themes of fantasy and reality, internal and external, physical and spiritual.

Euphoric, mesmerizing and profound, Flying Balloon pays homage to the highly personal, philosophical nature that characterizes Ay Tjoe’s stirring oeuvre. Submersing the viewer in a buoyant spirit of play and whimsy, the artist demonstrates her virtuosic abilities in this truly superlative painting, which earned her the prestigious “Best Emerging Artist Using Painting” award at the Prudential Eye Awards in 2015.

[1]Agung Hujatnikajenonng, Myriad of ‘"Paste": Ay Tjoe Christine, Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo, 2013, p. 5-6

[2]Christine Ay Tjoe quoted in whitecube.com/artists/artist/christine_ay_tjoe

[3]Christine Ay Tjoe quoted in whitecube.com/artists/artist/christine_ay_tjoe