• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2380

    Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art

    25 November 2007, Hong Kong

  • Lot 53

    LIU KANG (China 1911-Singapore 2005)

    Lanterns galore

    Price Realised  


    LIU KANG (China 1911-Singapore 2005)
    Lanterns galore
    signed and dated 'Kang/1971' (lower right)
    oil on canvas laid down on board
    41 3/4 x 41 3/4 in. (106 x 106 cm.)

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Having received his art education from the best of both worlds, the East (Shanghai) and the West (Paris), Liu Kang translated these influences and incorporated local Southeast Asian flavours to his work to create the distinct Nanyang style. This particular style, attributed to Singapore's pioneer painters, was first seen in the works of Liu Kang and fellow painters Chen Wen Hsi, Chen Chong Swee and Cheong Soo Pieng upon their return from a study-cum-painting trip in Bali in 1952. Some of his well-known paintings from this era include: Artist and Model (1954), Batik Workers (1954) and Balinese Girl in Red Sarong (undated). Liu Kang's reach however went beyond that of his peers as he continued to influence the next generation of artists through his teaching positions in the local art institutions - the Association of Chinese Artists of Singapore, the Singapore Art Society and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art (NAFA). Besides well-known artists, some of his students include famed personalities such as Singapore's first elected president, Ong Teng Cheong.

    Liu Kang's work reveals an unmistakable fauvist tendency. The colours of Matisse and the composition of van Gogh find an enduring resonance in the artist's work. What is interesting about this painting, is of course, the subject matter.

    Perhaps following the tradition of depicting sumptuous food and animals such as fish, peonies or birds, which form the traditional schema of Chinese painting that convey well wishes and good will, Liu chooses subject of festivity for the same effect. The occasion is undoubtedly the commonly celebrated Mid-Autumn festival which falls on the 15th of the 8th month on the lunar calendar. The festival is celebrated with the eating of delicacies such as the moon cake and pomelo and the children are often given a lantern each for play. Public gardens would also organise an exhibit of lanterns of diverse shapes and designs which were well attended by the people.

    Liu takes on a modern interpretation with this work, and perhaps even somewhat obscuring the familiarity of the theme to his audience of his time. He paints in a very modern, Western way, distorting the sense of perspective and space, and providing multiple viewpoints while utilising the same two-dimensional plane, much in accordance with the Fauvist masters.


    National Arts Council & National Heritage Board, LIU KANG AT 87, National Arts Council & National Heritage Board, 1997, p. 1970s/67 (illustrated in colour)