YUAN YUAN (Chinese, B. 1973)
YUAN YUAN (Chinese, B. 1973)

Steam Room III

YUAN YUAN (Chinese, B. 1973)
Steam Room III
titled 'Steam Room III' in English; signed in Chinese; dated '2010.10'; signed 'Y. Yuan.' in Pinyin (on the reverse); signed 'Y. Yuan.' in Pinyin (right side of the canvas)
oil on canvas
170 x 180 cm. (66 7/8 x 70 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2010
Jean-Gabriel Mitterand Gallery, Paris, France
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Paris, France, Jean-Gabriel Mitterand Gallery, Yuan Yuan: Steam Rooms, 24 June-30 July 2011.

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Lot Essay

Born in 1973, Yuan Yuan graduated from the prestigious China Academy of Art in Hangzhou. The subject matter of his paintings revolves around empty structures. His dedication to details is astounding-it gives the viewer the sensation of being inside the structure in person. The empty structures are a collection of personal experiences, accumulated data, and imaginations that are surreal and fantastic. The viewer takes on the identity of the traveller who is visiting a place that is vaguely familiar yet remote and lonesome. The traveller yearns to find a place to settle down in order to decode the cultural meaning behind the architecture.
The uninhabited interior space prompts the viewers to reflection on the existential problem and the value of an individual. Architectures exist for the purpose of serving people. When people are no longer present, the architecture loses its fundamental function. Paradoxically, this produces a new meaning - the empty architecture becomes an artificial product that solely serves the purpose of existing. Humans cannot create nature, so they take pride in building architecture. Yuan Yuan emphasizes the details in the interior and the traces that mark the passage of time. This treatment imbues the structure with a life cycle and an ageing process that are comparable to the human life span. When architecture ages, it is decrepit, abandoned, and ultimately demolished. Viewers are compelled to consider the inescapable universal law of time by which everything is dictated. Yuan Yuan's works inspire viewers to humble themselves and reflect on the value of existence.
Steam Room III (Lot 104) puts the mind of the viewer in a state that is oppressively hot and thick with humidity. Yet, the painting does not show any signs of dampness. Who used this confined space? What kind of conversation occurred here? Or was it always filled with silence? We have no way of knowing now. The uniformity of the small tiles on the seat and the random distribution of stones of varying sizes on the wall create a dramatic visual contrast. Compounded by the effects of the vibrant colours, this realistic environment is transformed into an intriguing realm of abstract patterns. Cage (Lot 105) urges the viewer to re-examine the spatial relationship between inside and outside. As big as an architectural structure, the humongous size of the cage was built for keeping animals or birds in captivity. Its purpose was to provide a close, yet safe distance for humans to observe the captives. Humans are always situated outside of the cage when they use this apparatus, and birds and animals are always passively being placed inside. The cage has no intrinsic value as a spectacle, but it represents the concepts of confinement and isolation. When the object of captivity is absent on the other side, viewers can clearly experience the vivid message of freedom.

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