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Amy Sillman (b. 1955)
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Amy Sillman (b. 1955)

Cliff 1

Amy Sillman (b. 1955)
Cliff 1
oil on canvas
72 x 59 7/8in. (183 x 152cm.)
Painted in 2005
Susanne Vielmetter LA Projects, Culver City.
Saatchi Collection, London (acquired in 2005).
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2013.
London, Saatchi Gallery, The New Atlantis: Abstract America, 2008, p. 148 (illustrated in colour, p. 149).
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Lot Essay

Looming almost two metres in height, Cliff 1 (2005) is a captivating example of Amy Sillman’s exuberant painterly language. Sillman inflects abstract forms with glimmers of figuration to create scapes of colour and shape that are charged with the memories and feelings of lived experience. The evocative, unresolved state of works like the present speaks powerfully of our slippery, subjective and sensational relationship to the world around us. To the right of Cliff 1, vertical strokes of cream on green surge upwards in a chalky, towering form suggestive of the ‘cliff’ of the title. This structure is capped with a summery profusion of yellow, orange, green and blue dabs of impasto, which conjure the petals and leaves of a wildflower meadow. A beaky gathering of bird- and plant-like green shards appear to tumble off the cliff to the left, where they meet a wide-open space wreathed in broad bright orange brushstrokes. These give way to a faceted, overlaid field of grey, khaki and pale pink flocked with dramatic deep red fragments. The vivid carmine forms, which look something like scraps of fabric or paper – pleated, scrunched, torn and thrown to the wind in chromatic chorus – glow with a characterful force that verges on personality. As Sillman has said, ‘the shapes that I am interested in looking at and drawing always turn into forms that have some kind of psychological narrative’ (A. Sillman, quoted in K. Rosenberg, ‘Shifting Contexts, Psychodrama and Meta-Works’, New York Times, 3 July 2014). Drawing on the hybridity of the work of artists like Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston and Richard Diebenkorn before her, Sillman loads her canvas with teeming and fugitive life, taking contemporary abstraction into thrilling new territory.

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