• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2605

    Asian Contemporary Art (Day Sale)

    25 May 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 497


    Price Realised  


    (Born in 1963)
    Shan Yue Ji
    mixed media on paper
    59 x 81 cm. (23 x 32 in.)
    Painted in 1991

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    Hou Chun-ming, in his Sha Yue Ji (Lot 497) makes the hanging tip of the tree blooms into a human head, while its underneath is a common rural scene with knolls and brushes. By this, the artist applies a strong flavour of Chinese folklore into a surrealist scene. In The God Rod (Lot 498), the artist depicts well-dressed individuals acting no better than beast in our society, their deformed appearances highlighted their equally deformed minds. Also one of the Sou Shen Ji series, The Prince & Warrior (Lot 499) depicts a deformed figure with his exaggerated male principal looming in a city crowded with skyscrapers, pointing to the strange power of human desires under suppression. The Pleasure of Tableux (Lot 500) is based on a contemporary issue, assisted and explained by a teasing, paradoxically misunderstood nomenclature, the artist poses a warning and criticism to modern society and morality.

    Hou's works in the 90s are predominantly prints that challenge social taboos. In fact, its meanings do not lie only on the decisive lines craved on woodblocks, but the complicated collaboration and contrast between the forms and contents, and its subsequent experience and reflection imposed on the viewers.

    In the first place, the forms of works are diverged. There are pieced works and in albums; some of them consist only of a singular motif, others with a half of the plane covered with words. Thus, should it be called a picture or a book? Which one is the main focus, the picture or the words? With this undefined collage and the points represented by words, should his works be considered as simplistic folk cravings, or a display of the archaic but socially critical languages? These are questions to be considered during the appreciation process.

    Also, the choice of representation mode adopted by the artist informed us of the earliest woodblock prints in China, the Buddhist sutras. It was after the Sung Dynasty that secular books and calendar prints became popular. Hou thus manipulated the form to sanctify and tease the alienated populace of the metropolis. He once pointed out in the Hou's Xintian that, 'Gan Bao of the Jin Dynasty had collected legends of contemporary mythical figures in his book Shou Shen Ji. What drawn my attention is that, most of these legends ended with a didactic remarks on morality, some of them are even expounded into omens explaining the current issues. They are indeed warnings. To modern readers, such notion of naive causality looks absurd, so powerfully indeed is this absurdity.' Most of works are mindfully inlaid with Chinese mythologies under the disguise of current issues, achieving an echoing effect of forms and contents, on top of the contrast and paradox of styles and themes.

    Since the themes are sex taboo and relationship between the sexes, Hou's representation has its focus on bodies. But they are never our understood ordinary appearance. Shifting among male, female and androgyny, the open display of desire and exaggeration of sexual organs are what commonly found in his works. In the re-structualization and mutation of human body, we found the contrasted human and tree combination ever since Shan Yue Ji. In the God Rod and he Prince & Warrior, ancient mythical tales are appropriated to scorn rites and the ties between the sexes.Pleasure Tableaux moved even further by introducing social criticism. The uncanny creation of the artist in the 90s voiced his underlying desires to point to people's mind and the different aspects of the society.