‘[Walasse Ting] loves splashes of colour for they are flowers in reality. He paints, fluidly, and then nothing exists but the flower which are, in reality, splashes. Matisse = I only believe while painting. Ting = painting is now. Never before, never after.’ – Pierre Alechinsky
Christie’s is honoured to present several works by Walasse Ting in this season’s sales, with a wide range of masterpieces on offer, spanning several different periods, mediums and subjects. Love Me Love Me was completed in 1973 and is a classic example of work from Ting’s New York period, when his productivity and creativity were unbridled. The scale and theme of this work offers a glimpse of the artist’s bold ambitions – there are only five large-format works on paper (measuring over two meters long) dating from the 1970s, and only three of them feature the female body as a subject available in the market, according to major auction database platforms. Love Me Love Me’s debut on the market is evidence of Ting leaving his mark on the frontline of the West’s post-war art scene, and representation of his introspection and artistic philosophy.
REVOLUTIONISING THE PRESENTATION OF NUDITY THROUGH COLOUR
Ting’s style of female nudes is utterly faithful to himself and unique among Eastern and Western traditions; in a way, his paintings are playgrounds for his unique experiments with colour and formal theories. The naked body has been an important subject in Western art since antiquity; in China as well, the physique of female bodies has been a perennial feature since the earliest known paintings of maidens in the Wei and Jun Dynasties. In his works, however, Ting broke with the conventions and traditions in Eastern society to expand the frontiers of what has been done. Not only is nudity far from a taboo, it is also his favoured vessel to investigate the manipulation of colours and form. Thanks to his experimental combination of colours, the same model curiously takes on multiple temperaments and personalities. Love Me Love Me’s use of eye-catching blocks of colour to carve out her facial features, makeup, hair, and clothing cannot help but remind one of the Warhol’s paintings of celebrities. Shaking off the restrictions placed by the want for details, Ting used large pieces of neon to sculpt the nude form; the vibrant skin tone and exaggerated impression of the female figure show how Ting forged his own language of colour amidst the overwhelming trend of Pop Art from America, in the process striking at the heart of the West’s traditions for nude paintings.
STANDING TALL AND OUT AMID WESTERN POST-WAR IDEOLOGIES
Ting befriended artists from the CoBrA movement in Paris in the 1950s, and their non-representational lines, sharp colours, and broad brushstrokes formed a new stepping stone for his subsequent creations. The direct contours of the body, contrasting red and green stockings, and uninhibited posture of the model in Love Me Love Me can all be understood as Ting’s emulation of the CoBrA spirit. When he arrived in America in 1958, he was also immersed in the frenzy for Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism, but Ting was not pushed along by the trends. Instead, he took what he liked from each school and selectively translated them into his own artistic language. Abstract Expressionism uses curves and colours to illustrate the shared passion of our subconsciousness, and this zeal is on full display in Ting’s drip paint and splash ink works, as though he was channelling his dear friend Sam Francis. The splashes of orange and green in Love Me Love Me may appear random and haphazard at first, fully realising the visual explosiveness of Abstract Expressionism; upon closer inspection, one can discern the artist’s careful planning and order – with one cluster around the model’s left leg and others evenly distributed across the pink background, forming a precise balance, and fully showcasing Ting’s transcendence of Abstract Expressionism to create his own artistic style and language.