Fang Lijun (B. 1963)
Fang Lijun (B. 1963)


Fang Lijun (B. 1963)
signed in Chinese (lower left)
signed in Chinese; dated and titled '2001.1.15' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
111 x 140.5 cm. (43 1/4 x 55 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2001
Sotheby's New York, 21 March 2007, Lot 47
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
Hebei Education Press, Chinese Artists of Today: Fang Lijun, Hebei, China, 2006 (illustrated, p. 409).
Lo Yinhua (ed.), Taipei Fine Arts Museum & She Jie Yi Shu Chu Ban She, Live Like a Wild Dog: 1993-2008 Archival Documentation of Fang Lijun, Taipei, Taiwan, 2009 (illustrated, p. 287).
Culture and Art Publishing House, Fang Lijun, Beijng, China, 2010 (illustrated, p. 330).

Lot Essay

Among the highlights of an important New York collection are three works by Beijing-based painter Fang Lijun that are featured in the day and evening sales. A leader of Beijing's cynical realists, Fang was among the first artists of his generation to gain an international reputation. With his strong palette, roguish humour and distinct imagery, Fang was sought after as early as 1993 for group exhibitions from Australia to Venice, as well as for that year's Venice Biennale. Fang's works were marked early on by his incorporation of a bald-headed figure (one that sometimes resembles the artist himself) and by his attraction to water and swimming as central motifs. In 2001.1.15 (Lot 485), we witness Fang's extraordinary virtuosity in delineating the soft folds and tides of the water, its softness engulfing the figure like a blanket. Fang's palette is deliberately hyper-real, with the impossibly serene cerulean blue offset by the deep, ruddy flesh tones of the swimming figure.
The image of the bald-headed figure has a range of connotations - a suppression of identity, as with prisoners, soldiers or monks, or a statement of individuality, as with Fang's class of ambiguous hooligans. Similarly, Fang's use of the image of the swimmer has multiple meanings. It is an image of freedom and escape, as well as one of loneliness and ennui. Here the nude swimmer is seen with his eyes shut in mid-stroke, in a dreamy seascape which, without a shore or horizon, is also seemingly without end. As such, the scene of escape has a darker undertow, and highlights Fang's fatalism, suggesting a life of interminable and lonesome struggles. This theme is made more poignant in 1999.9.3 (Lot 486), which shows another swimming figure, creating gentle waves around his sinking form, grasping silently towards a shoreline - or for a helping hand - that is not pictured and presumably not there to be had. It is with such works, seductive in their colour and execution, haunting in their imagery, that Fang has become one of the central figures of Chinese contemporary painting today.

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