Twin Dragons

Twin Dragons
left panel: signed, titled, dated, and inscribed “David Diao ©2000 Twin Dragons, 2000 left panel 1-3 Acrylic on canvas 72 x 47 1/4” overall 72 x 154 1/2”” (on the reverse)
middle panel: signed, titled, dated, and inscribed “David Diao ©2000 Twin Dragons, 2000 3 panel (middle) Acrylic on canvas 70 x 60” overall 72 x 154 1/2”” (on the reverse)
right panel: signed, titled, dated, and inscribed “David Diao ©2000 Twin Dragons, 2000 3 panel (right) Acrylic on canvas 72 x 47 1/4 overall 72 x 154 1/2”” (on the reverse)
acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, triptych
183 x 122 cm. (72 x 48 in.); 183 x 152 cm. (72 x 60 in.); & 183 x 123 cm. (72 x 48 in.)
overall: 183 x 397 cm. (72 x 156 1/4 in.)
Executed in 2000
Office Baroque, Brussels, Belgium
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Brought to you by

Kimmy Lau
Kimmy Lau

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

David Diao’s life is dotted with important historical milestones. Born in Sichuan’s Chengdu in 1943, he was forced to emigrate to Hong Kong by the age of 6. In 1955, he reunited with his structural architect father in America and began receiving an elite education in post-war boom New York. In university, Diao studied philosophy as well as art, whereupon he discovered his talent in 2D design, thus began his career in art.

It was not until 1979 that Diao could return to China, after spending three decades away. It could be said that his upbringing encapsulates 20th century diaspora as a result of war. Unlike the typical Chinese emigration story, however, Diao’s intellectual upbringing motivated him in search of his purpose in the cacophonous world, while deftly (and almost arrogantly) avoiding direct focus on the subject of Asian-American identity. It is evident in his works that he is deeply influenced by New York impressionists, incorporating elements of Bauhaus, Constructivism, and Pop Art into his personal narrative, and developing it into a deeply personal and distinctive symbolism that melds together the East and the West, making him a pioneer among his contemporary Chinese artists.

Twin Dragons is one such work which embodies his distinctive style. This triptych in acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, completed in 1999, comes in two variations, with minutely discernible differences in the use of colour during the silkscreen process. The other version in this pair was showcased in 2015 at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art during the “David Diao: A Retrospective” exhibition, which also marked the artist’s first institutional showing within China. In addition, Diao’s works made frequent showings in important exhibitions domestically and abroad, including The Second Guangzhou Triennial (2005), The ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe’s “High Times, Hard Times. New York Painting 1967–1975” (2008), the National Academy of Design’s The Annual: 2012, the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 77th Biennale (2014), and more.

Twin Dragons has a strikingly straightforward visual language, with the triptych’s left panel featuring Hong Kong-American actor and martial arts artist Bruce Lee’s classic image, and the right panel showing American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock in the midst of his famous Action Painting technique. The centre panel is a superimposition of the flanking images, and in doing so, Diao combines the two distinct types of masculinity (both of which he admired) in one work.

In terms of technique, Diao’s stylised processing of these pictures makes use of silkscreen painting, which was popularised by Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. Unlike the typical Pop Artist which might have chosen an existing commercial imagery, however, Diao’s choice of photographs clearly show higher analytical and compositional intent. His pairing is an analogy between American Action Painting and Chinese martial arts: he used Pollock-esque techniques in his works in the 1970s, and in choosing an image of Pollock we can catch a glimpse of the artist’s self-aggrandisation as well as self-criticism. His 2000 work titled Lying 1 similarly depicts a young David Diao lying on a lounge chair, with a Pollock artwork imposed in the background; Bruce Lee’s image were featured even more frequently, including in Carton d’Invitation (1994), Reading (1999), and Hiding (2000).

Bruce Lee is without a doubt one of the most well-known Asian figures in American popular culture, and his cultural icon status explains his repeated appearance in Diao’s works, including Twin Dragons . For instance, in Carton d’Invitation, Diao took an invitation to a Joseph Beuys exhibition and covered the picture of Beuys with a freeze frame from Bruce Lee’s film “Enter the Dragon”. This richly autobiographical artistic treatment is an excellent example of Diao’s continued reflection upon the identity problem of Asian faces in the Western art world’s elitist superstructure and shows that he does not submit to the Western mainstream art world’s stereotyped and archetypal portrayal of the Chinese identity.

More from 20th Century & Contemporary Art (Evening Sale)

View All
View All