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(Filipino, 1931-2005)
Christ Crucified
signed 'Kiu Kok 90' (lower right)
oil on canvas
91 x 30 cm. (35 7/8 x 12 in.)
Painted in 1990
Gift from the artist to the present owner

Lot Essay

Ang Kiu Kok is a leading modernist painter within the Philippines. Born of Chinese descent, Ang's migrant-patriot father originally wanted to name him Hua
Sheng, or "Chinese-born", but decided to look for another name when he learned that his cousin's son had been given the same name. Worried about China's fate amidst the turbulent political climate, his father named him Kiukok, which meant "Save the Country." Ang came of age during the divisive period of post-WWII. Coming from a strict Chinese background, it was particularly difficult for Ang to become an artist due to familial pressures to choose a proper career or vocation. Nonetheless Ang perservered, enthusiastically absorbing influences from the modern art movement and fusing this with subject matters close to his heart. He eventually became an acclaimed artist within the Philippines, embraced by the local Chinese community and even invited to exhibit with the Chinese Artists' League in Taiwan as his career began to gain momentum.

Ang Kiu Kok's works are strongly influenced by modern and cubist expression;. particularly reminiscent of George Braque. As a young artist, Ang studied with cubist pioneer Vicente Manansala. However unlike Manansala, Ang's works are not obviously charged with social or political messaging, and he refrained from painting genre scenes. Ang preferred instead to focus on objects or scenes which could be purely abstracted - still lifes, animals, people, landscapes, or views through open windows. He focused on dynamic tension within his works, creating this through the strong subversion of shapes; tensed or interlocking limbs; ferocity amongst fighting animals; the taut, geometric arrangement of his still lifes or junkscapes. Particularly, the granulated texture of his brushwork became a primary characteristic of Ang's. The objectivity of his content is contrasted against the strength of the emotional response simulated by the subjects: a slavering dog, a cat with rising hackles, or a man caught in a silent scream. The subjects are quintessentially Filipino in nature, but born of a subtle love for commonly seen things or people rather than a dramatized idyll or societal eulogy. Yet Ang captures the underlying sentiments through hard-edged expressionist nature of his painting which symbolized the do-or-die atmosphere of 20th century Philippines.
Dogfight (Lot 152) is a classic example of Ang's iconic fighting dog paintings. A scene which the animal-loving Ang witnessed frequently around his home in Quezon City is recounted here. The artist blends a fascinated admiration for the dogs, magnificent in their fury, with a detached artistic observation of their frenzy. The slavering, violent propensity of these compositions indicates a harsh reality of Darwinian survival, while the bright red of the background evokes a tantalizing sense of danger. Ang's skill at accurately depicting the musculature and anatomy of the dogs (in spite of his Cubist technique) is inimitable; drawn from his lengthy observation of the animals as seen through the other works within his series where they are shown in quieter semblances; lifting a leg, scratching themselves, or howling at the moon.

An exception to Ang's generic subjects are his religion-oriented paintings. A faithful Catholic, Ang created an extraordinary series of works depicting the Crucifixion. These are exceptionally powerful, with a foundation of religiosity but approached through the eagle eye of Ang's artistic vision. Strong colors, dense lines, and boxy shapes are hallmarks; as Ang interrogated the various attitudes by which the figure of Christ could be arranged within a tight spatial arrangement. The angular spikes of the crown of thorns juxtaposes against impaling nails and muscular, strained limbs of Christ, either tightly contorted within a rectangular format; or stretched out and taut in a linear plane, as seeen in Christ Crucified (Lot 154)

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