JIA AILI (Chinese, B. 1979)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT ASIAN PRIVATE COLLECTION

Throw Over to the Wasteland

Throw Over to the Wasteland
signed 'JAL' in English; dated '2007 (lower left); signed and titled in Chinese; dated '2007' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas, diptych
each: 290 x 200 cm. (114 1/8 x 78 ¾ in.)
overall: 290 x 400 cm. (114 1/8 x 157 ½ in.)
Painted in 2007
Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, Beijing, China
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, The Wasteland, Beijing, China, 2007 (illustrated, pp. 46 & 60).
Beijing, China, Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, The Wasteland, 22 Apirl-10 June 2007.
Beijing, China, CAFAM Art Museum, The First "CAFAM·Future" Exhibition: Sub-Phenomena: Report on the State of Chinese Young Art, 8 August-6 September 2012.
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Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

British poet T. S. Eliot penned the poem The Waste Land in 1922. It was hailed as one of the literary milestones of the 20th century that described the collective despair of an era. Jia Aili's The Wasteland series pays tribute to this great work of literature. Throw Over to the Wasteland (Lot 56) expresses the artist’s concerns for the human condition by depicting ruins that appear in epic poems. R. G Collingwood's dialectic on The Waste Land in The Principle of Art defended its positive influence. Viewers of Throw Over to the Wasteland can also appreciate why this artwork is a necessary allegory of an era:

"As spokesman of his community, the secrets he must utter are theirs. The reason why they need them is that no community knows its own heart; and by failing in this knowledge a community altogether deceives itself on the one subject concerning which ignorance means death".


The amazing power of observation of artists compels them to create works that thaw souls frozen by the torrent of times. To the ordinary people, this can be considered as "madness". Bosch painted the world of Haywain (Fig. 1) in order to expose the absurdity in the society where good and evil, humans and beasts, beauty and ugliness coexist. His extensive use of symbols triggers viewers to reflect on the oddities in the social reality. This treatment is similarly employed in Jia Aili's work. Throw Over to the Wasteland participated in Jia Aili's first solo exhibition Wasteland. He intentionally used the word feng (madness) to replace the homonym in fengjing (landscape). The painting is a double entendre like the title – it is shrouded in riddles. A lone figure donning a gas mask stands amongst an industrial wasteland. Humans and the civilization in which they take pride are dwarfed by such desolation. Modern society prides itself in progress, but can the advancement in technology and materialism nourish the poverty in spirit? The objective of Throw Over to the Wasteland is to awaken a sense of self-awareness, Jia Aili explained, "Art can directly touch the tenderest part of the human spirit. I hope my work can thaw the jadedness that is prevalent in humanity".


Born in Dandong, studied in Beijing, and currently residing in Beijing, all the cities in which Jia Aili has lived have experienced dramatic development. His personal experience with such an atrocities become the cornerstone of his surrealistic visual vocabulary (Fig.2). Thrown Over to the Wasteland does not specify the time or the setting. The cause and consequence of such desolation are also ambiguous. Jia Aili cast off the narrative restrains and focused on the universal feeling of survival. The character does not have a particular identity – he is the personification of all the wretchedness of humanity. Naked except for the gas mask, the character stands defiantly in the face of such destitution. Such resilience hints at the possibilities of salvation and resurrection. The bleakness and frail figure is reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World (Fig. 3). The challenge of this piece is how to express the disabled Christina overcoming adversity in a seemingly hopeless life. Illness can only limit her mobility. It cannot bind her spirit. Both Jia and Wyeth sincerely depicted the verve of life and its struggle to find hope amidst hardship. Loss is the best testament to the preciousness of happiness. Jia Aili seeks spiritual breakthrough and emancipation through this quiet contemplation.


Depiction is an ancient form of visual art. It is now often being challenged in terms of concept and form. Jia Aili confronts this crisis with his seasoned brushwork that expresses a state of being beyond the descriptive power of languages. Rhythmic lines are sprinkled on the unmodulated grey-blue on the background of Thrown Over to the Wasteland. Such oppressive colours are on the brink of drowning all the characters and cars. These heavily accumulated brushworks contribute to an explosive composition. Real and virtual tension are comparable to the catastrophic landscape of J. M. W. Turner (Fig. 4). The world depicted is caught between disintegration and convergence. It guides the viewer to leave behind objective reality and enter the spiritual world of the artist. Ancient Chinese Taoists believed in the power of talismans, “A mere spark of light animates the talisman. The neophyte wastes ink and vermilion”. Only the devoted can guarantee the potency of the talisman. Jia Aili is deeply inspired to extend this principle to his creative endeavours. All his insights are distilled into his brushwork. The artist pours out his passion in the form of lyrical lines which inherited the fine tradition of Chinese calligraphy (Fig. 5). Jia Aili's work affirms the value and relevance of painting by his exploration of the spiritual world.

The century old poem The Waste Land exposed how the moral crisis was still unresolved. Jia Aili examined the gloss of prosperity in the 21st century. With the visual language of contemporary painting, he reveals the existential crisis that is experienced by the rapidly globalising humanity.

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