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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION


signed and dated 'Genieve Figgis 2018' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
59 x 59in. (150 x 150cm.)
Painted in 2018
Almine Rech Gallery, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Paris, Almine Rech Gallery, Genieve Figgis: Wish you were here, 2018.
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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Anna Touzin
Anna Touzin Specialist, Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

The slippery characters that people Genieve Figgis’ bewitching paintings often seem to be performing for an audience, like actors in an enigmatic tableaux vivant. In the large-scale work Portal (2018), this play-acting gains a compellingly macabre edge. At the centre of the canvas is a blindingly bright aperture, which seems to puncture the soft pink space behind it. A gilded halo surrounds it, framed by dancing lines of gleaming gold droplets. A band of ghoulish robed figures stand huddled in a row below. They all have skulls for faces. Figgis does not let us know whether these creatures are undead monsters or participants in a masque. Their forms are rendered with an extraordinary liquidity, almost as if about to melt. ‘Faces,’ says the critic Riccardo Venturi, ‘are deformed, streaked, or crystallised like agate. Limbs decompose and decay; walls appear to dissolve’ (R. Venturi, ‘Genieve Figgis’, Artforum, April 2018).

This viscosity reflects Figgis’ dexterous technique. She works without prefatory drawings, allowing each work to emerge intuitively through the process of creation. Her preferred medium is acrylic paint mixed with water: a slick, aqueous mixture that she applies to the canvas while it is still wet. As she explained in a 2018 interview, ‘I love the unreliability of the material. The chance happening. The surprise element of painting’ (G. Figgis, quoted in P. Silveria, ‘An Interview with Genieve Figgis’, Purple Diary, 2 January 2018). Figgis grew up in a rural Irish milieu dominated by the strict, patriarchal Catholic Church. She has since found her own spirituality, and her practice seems to revel in the freedom that this offers.

Figgis’ unpredictable approach is counterbalanced by her perspicuous understanding of historical precedent. In Portal, Figgis’ ghostly figures conjure the spirit of James Ensor, the Belgian master of the morbid carnivalesque, while the painting’s sense of theatricality harks back to the courtly painters of the 18th century, from Antoine Watteau’s orderly The Embarkation for Cythera (1717) to Francisco de Goya’s more flamboyant 1770s tapestry studies. Like the Spanish master, Figgis is all too aware of the darkness that can lurk in even the most frivolous of settings.

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