LALAN (Xie Jinglan, Chinese, 1921–1995)
LALAN (Xie Jinglan, Chinese, 1921–1995)

Les formes sortent du bleu et du vert (Forms come out of the blue and the green)

LALAN (Xie Jinglan, Chinese, 1921–1995)
Les formes sortent du bleu et du vert (Forms come out of the blue and the green)
signed and dated ‘72’ (on the reverse); titled ‘Les formes sortent du bleu et du vert‘ (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas (diptych)
each: 195 x 130 cm. (76 3/4 x 51 1/8 in.)
overall: 195 x 260 cm. (76 3/4 x 102 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1972
Private Collection, Europe
Anon. Sale, Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 7 October 2012, Lot 549
Acquired from the above by the present owner
L'Association Culturelle Confluences: Europe-Asie, Exposition de Peintures de Lalan, Paris, France, 1990 (illustrated, plate 14)
Shanghai Renmin Meishu Publishing, Lalan, Shanghai, China, 2009 (illustrated, p.90-91)
Museu de Arte de Macau, Fragrance of the Mind - A Retrospective of Lalan's Work, Macau, China (illustrated, plate 33, p. 62-63)
Paris, France, Espace Pierre Cardin, Exposition de Peintures de Lalan, May 1990.
Shanghai, China, Shanghai Art Museum, My Vision of Paradise - Retrospective of Lalan’s Art, July 4 – August 5, 2009.
Macau, China, Museu de Arte de Macau, Fragrance of the Mind – A Retrospective of Lalan’s Work, March 5 - May 30, 2010.

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Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

Dancing is a spiritual exercise in a physical form
Merce Cunningham (1919-2009)

Forms come out of the blue and the green (Lot 33) is one of Lalan’s most majestic and known paintings and could be seen as a physical manifestation of dancing. Born in Guizhou in 1921, Xie Jinglan studied music and singing in the Hangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and Shanghai College of Music until she left her homeland for France besides her first husband Zao Wou-Ki in 1948. They both immersed into the effervescent artistic scene and soon became close friends with some of its leading figures such as Pierre Soulages or Georges Mathieu.

Xie Jinglan nourished her creative mind in the Ecole Normale de Musique and the American Community Center of Paris where she was challenged by the iconoclastic studies her Western contemporaries were undergoing about electronic music and modern dance practice. She was profoundly influenced by the dance of Martha Graham in which the sub-consciousness manifests through the movement of the body and the dancer’s improvisation. No wonder that abstraction was an easy leap when she started painting.

Renamed Lalan and remarried to the French sculptor Marcel Van Thienen in 1958, the artist testified that she then “found herself unable to live without painting” and realized that she would find her inner voice by combining her different ways of expression, painting, dancing and music.

The 1970s are a turning point in her practice: she stopped painting for a year in 1968 and decided to move away from abstraction and turn to figuration by exploring the art of traditional Chinese landscapes and Taoist philosophy. Les Formes sortent du bleu et du vert painted in 1972 is abstract in its forms but the composition is constructed as a traditional Chinese landscape, revealing the peaks of steep mountains and the shades of a radiant mist. A cadence of deep greens and blues form the landscape, the two colours of the Tang traditional School of the North. Created in the 8th century by Li Sixun and his son Li Zhaodao (Fig. 1) the “qinglu” or the “blue and the green landscape” is recognized as a major style in the Chinese art history. The artist use mineral colours of lapis lazuli and malachite to compose poetic landscapes, enhanced by golden colours that reveal luminous horizons and rich tales. Lalan along with other figures of the modern Chinese art history such as Zhang Daqian (Fig.2) will invest this tradition, guiding it to a paint on the edge between figuration and abstraction. In Les Formes sortent du bleu et du vert Lalan creates the bridge to abstract forms. The bright and contrasted colours are naturally blending with each other, revealing a brilliant and joyful flow which brings together the two parts of the diptych.

Lalan was a performer who learned early how to tame her body to develop a strong control of her movements: like a traditional calligrapher’s assured wrist, the artist spread the oil on the canvas writing poetic signs that runs across the composition. She was known for painting at speed, without prior sketches and we can easily imagine the choreography happening during the creative process, mixing dance, music and painting. Performance is recognized as a major trend in art since the 1950s: the creative process of Gutai Group artists’s such as Kazuo Shiraga (Fig. 3) or the shows of the dancer Merce Cunningham associated to John Cage at Black Mountain College in North Carolina (fig.4) opened a new space in the artistic performance. Lalan comes from this lineage and combines her dance practice with the painting medium. The brushstrokes of Les Formes naissent du bleu et du vert are expressive and witnesses of a spontaneous movement. As an integrated artist, she goes beyond herself using improvisation and reveals an art which is the pure translation of her modern spirit, linked to the traditional Chinese art.

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