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Girl with a Letter

Girl with a Letter
signed with the artist's initials 'B. S.' (lower right); signed and dated 'Ben Sledsens 2020' (on the reverse)
oil and acrylic on canvas
74 3/4 x 55 1/4in. (190 x 140.3cm.)
Painted in 2020
Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Antwerp, Tim Van Laere Gallery, Ben Sledsens Morning Moon, September-October 2020.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Senior Specialist, Head of Department

Lot Essay

Spanning nearly two metres in height, Girl with a Letter is an exquisite example of Ben Sledsens’ enigmatic figurative practice. In a bright room on a clear day, a young woman in a pink dress sits upon a chair, her body tense with anticipation. Outside, a winding path leads to a shimmering body of water, where a single sailing boat is suspended like a talisman. A cherry blossom tree is in full bloom, echoed by the vase of flowers that stands upon the table inside. To the right of the figure, a landscape painting offers a window to an alternative world: a reference to another of Sledsens’ paintings, Blue Lake with Purple Trees. Below it, the jagged veins of the pot plant set in motion a play of diagonals, leading the eye across the diamond-patterned rug, to the woman’s pointed shoes, to the crisp clean lines of the envelope upon the table. The work’s tantalising untold narrative, plucked from the artist’s psyche, is characteristic of his practice. His imagined stories, settings and characters inhabit a world of surreal, dreamlike intrigue, where events are perpetually on the brink of unfolding.

The subject of a major solo exhibition at the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga earlier this year, Sledsens was born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1991, and has risen to prominence since graduating from the city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. He cites artists including Henri Rousseau, Claude Monet, Pieter Bruegel and Henri Matisse as inspiration: the present work, in particular, invites comparison with the latter’s depictions of windows and the worlds contained beyond them. Such art-historical echoes infuse his paintings with a sense of nostalgia and déjà-vu; so too do the recurring references to his own works, which lend an otherworldly coherence to his fictional realities. Using a mixture of oil and acrylic, Sledsens works on his paintings for three or four weeks, paying close attention to the subtle interplay of texture, colour and geometry. Here, as our gaze triangulates between the window, the painting on the wall and the letter on the table, we find ourselves drawn deeper into the picture’s silent world. Like the girl staring at her unopened message, we too are suspended between states, eager to peel back the veils of illusion and read beneath the surface.

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