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    Sale 2706

    Chinese 20th Century Art (Day Sale)

    25 May 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 901


    Price Realised  


    (b. 1953)
    Lhasa Market
    signed in Chinese; dated '1983.7' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    46 x 61 cm. (18 x 24 in.)
    Painted in 1983

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    Created during the late 1970s to the 1980s, the Tibetan Series is Chen Danqing's important creation and also a milestone in China's modern artistic development. During the Cultural Revolution, Chen, then merely a secondary school student, was sent to work in the countryside in the south of Jiangxi Province. Interested in painting he would paint with pen and paper after work, gradually cultivating himself into a self-taught painter. It was not until 1974 that his fabulous works were displayed in exhibition and highly praised, thereafter he was admitted to the master's programme at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts. In 1976, in search of inspiration, he traveled to Tibet, from where he brought back portraits telling of Tibetans' daily life rituals instead of paintings depicting politically influenced images.

    In 1980, he was subsidized by the Academy to visit Lhasa again, just before he left China for the US. His Tibetan series brought the invariably mystical Tibetan customs and practices onto canvases, capturing a previously unseen set of aesthetics. Tibet's unique geography and mentality different from mainstream ideology have provided an excellent blueprint for Chen's distinctive painting language. The free and often bold brushwork of his works result in his employment of accurate life drawing techniques with sheer determination to beautifully depict Tibetan daily life. Lhasa Market (Lot 901) depicts a lively marketplace in the Tibetan capital. In the central part of the painting are five men and women chatting freely before the market centre where crowds are bustling and hustling, starkly contrasting the man leisurely lying on haystack on the left. Vendors appear engaged in trade as horses bearing firewood bend their heads down to eat grass. In front of the vendors is a hot pot that adds flavours to the lively scene. Without intent to raise any retrospective question but purely giving an account on the simple and realistic Tibetan lifestyle, Chen has unostentatiously illustrated Tibetan daily life. Potala Palace at Twilight (Lot 902) has brought the Tibetan landmark onto canvas. In contrast to the raw brushwork that illustrates the enclosed wall, the painter uses exquisite strokes in order to capture an architecture which embodies the spirit of the Tibetans. In comparison to the lofty Potala Palace, the tiny passer-by and the trees growing next to the high wall appear to be negligible.

    The artistic theme of the Tibetan Series is through the artist's deep insight to unveil to the viewers the costumes, in addition to the intrinsic spirit of Tibetan culture. As one of the important elements of Tibetan culture, Tibetan costumes are similarity unique, dazzling and extraordinary and have a long history. Tibetan Girl (Lot 904) puts on ochre facial cream, bears a piece of woolen fabric (pulu) and attentively makes woolen products of ethnic characteristics, which displays the feat of weaving and the simplicity of Tibetan women. Tibetan spinsters wear their hair into two braids, and these are the type of women that Tibetan Lady (Lot 905) precisely portrays. She wears a "bazhug", which is a triangular headpiece, folded into a triangular stand. The painting with its bright blue sky background, depicted beaming smile and its deep perspective thoroughly captures the optimistic character of the Tibetan woman. Morning Breeze (Lot 903) depicts a beauty standing on the green grassland, wearing a pair of jade earrings and having a mild expression in eyes that radiates a young girl's aspirations. Chen's paintings not only realistically depict Tibetan genre and give viewers an unprecedented visual enjoyment, but his paintings are infused with the artist's sentimentality- a respect for an independent entity in the world as well as diverse cultures and life styles. Hence, the figures of his portrait paintings have unique temperament and spirit, like the industrious and simplistic Tibetan Girl, the positive and optimistic Tibetan Lady, and the warm and tender Morning Breeze

    Once the late seventies, following China's open door policy in economy, the non-mainstream culture has begun emerging and gradually influencing the entire society in China. Artists started rethinking the issues that could not be or had been unable to be discussed in the past. Oil painting became a measure for rational thinking instead of a medium for propaganda as in the past. Chen's realistic paintings are rich in ethnic, cultural and hometown features, profoundly impacting the perpetually popular yet extremely doctrinal thematic-creation-model, bringing a new realm to the China's art scene of the 1980s. Humanistic sentiments and integral strength are the primary artistic themes of Chen's works, which are also the natural realization of his own sentiments and integrity, the revelation of his own experiences and his profound understanding of and sympathy and respect for the grass-root people. This insight into human sentiments and veracity has given his works glorious and lofty meaning, marking Chen's artistic endeavors as an important milestone in China's modern art development.


    Private Collection, USA