Human depiction can be seen in art as early as the Paleolithic age, the most famous of which was the 'Venus of Wineldorf'. Artistic dimensions of the human form highlight cultural values and societal attitudes toward gender, figurative art, and the relationship between humanity and the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. Representations of the human body in art, whether identified as religious or secular, raise questions concerning structures of power, ideology, and identity. Artistic renderings and religious interpretations of the human body privilege it as a symbolic value and a political agent, especially during periods of protest against societal norms and definitions of gender as sexual identification. It is thus unsurprising that the human figure has been a subject of visual representation for artists seeking to explore the human condition through art over the decades, and has even developed into key tropes such as portraiture and the Nude, recognized in the canon of art history.
This season, Christie's is pleased to present Figurative Visions: Contemporary Southeast Asian Art from an Important Asian Collection, a group of works that ask the questions: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? The role and meaning of the human body incorporates a diverse range of cultural forces, including but not limited to art and religion. Different cultures and eras interpret the meaning and value of the human body in distinctive ways. In Thai artist Chatchai Puipia's self-portrait Talking in the Sleep (Lot 453) the artist appears to be in a hypnotic state and no longer sporting the wild-eyed look of his earlier self-portraits. The self-reflexive nature of the work is part of the artist's exploration into the malleable nature of self-identity and what it means to be an artist. Surrounded by swirls of pink and purple paints captures the genre of 'Thai magical realism' that Puipia has come to be known for, bringing the viewer into his own dream-like state.