3->2 #05

3->2 #05
signed and dated ‘christine 10’ (lower right); signed & dated again, titled ‘3?2 #05’, inscribed ‘200 x 170 cm/oil on canvas’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
170 x 200 cm. (66 7/8 x 78 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2010
Lama Sabakhtani Club: Ay Tjoe Christine in collaboration with Deden Sambas, Indonesia, Artsociates, 2010 (Illustrated, p. 50)
Bandung, Indonesia, Lawangwangi Artspace, Lama Sabakhtani Club, 16 April - 2 May 2010

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Kimmy Lau
Kimmy Lau

Lot Essay

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’

Mark 15:35; Matthew 27:46

Violent, striking, and deeply personal, Ay Tjoe’s work harnesses abstraction as a means of expressing the most intense aspects of human experience. 3 →2 #05 (Lot 53) features a seething mass of red pigment that almost seems to pulsate in its isolation and physicality, counterbalanced by thread-like scribbles and delicate lines intermingled with cryptic sketches. As a raw expression of pure passion and fervour, the piece exemplifies Ay Tjoe’s ability to manipulate the elements of colour, texture and form to elicit powerful emotion and psychological depth in the viewer.

3→2 #05 was first exhibited in a show entitled Lama Sabachthani Club, held in the artist’s hometown of Bandung Indonesia in 2010. The title of the exhibition refers to an excerpt from the Bible, in which Christ, hung up upon the cross, cries out in pain “My God, my God! Why hast thou forsaken me!” This desperate plea to a higher power for help at one’s hour of greatest need was a powerful source of inspiration to Ay Tjoe, who was born and raised Catholic. She describes the act as “a harsh experience, an intimate calling to The Maker, but there are still elements of joy that seep in due to this ultimate calling.” Within pain there can also be transcendence, and reaching out to one’s God represents a moment of intimacy between the caller and the called.

Belief is a powerful element in Ay Tjoe’s life, and 3→2 #05 is filled with symbolic references to Christian iconography (Fig. 1). In a biblical context, red was also the colour of the robe that Jesus wore as they tormented him and placed the crown of thorns upon his head, associated with the colour of blood, sacramental wine, and Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross. Here, the intense scarlet hue expresses the pain and anguish and torment that accompanies a cry for help, an expression that is heightened and rendered pure by its isolation against a plain white ground. Amidst the mass of red, yellow candles emit miniature halos of yellow light, seeming to offer solace and hope, while to the right a crown appears – a reference to the thorny diadem that Christ wore during his anguish.

Ay Tjoe’s allusions to belief, highly graphic style of working, and love for the symbolic power connoted by the colour red make it impossible not to compare her early work to that of Cy Twombly (Fig. 2), who similarly created vigorously expressive works filled with rich allusions to violence and history. Yet Ay Tjoe’s works are more intimate in their scope, exploring individual pain and personal experience. This can be perceived in the concentrated density of the central form, which is complemented by a deliberate, thoughtful use of line that reveals Ay Tjoe’s background and training as a printmaker. At the exhibition Hendro Wiyanto notes in the exhibition catalogue for Lama Sabachthani Club, Ay Tjoe’s works “remind us of a certain Eva Hessian atmosphere,” fragile organic forms that reveal an inner strength in their composition (Fig. 3).

The painting includes numerous references to the act of creation: scribbled, barely decipherable text alludes to the construction of a metal crown, while a pair of scissors indicating where to cut appears by the stencil of a foot and socks. Christine envisaged the paintings from this exhibition as complementary to the dynamic sculptures that were also a part of the show – “working drafts” on which she developed ideas and tracked her progress. The sculptural installation works were the result of a collaboration with Deden Sambas, a fellow Indonesian artist based in Bandung, and included a realized version of the conceptual crown depicted here. Thus, the title of the work, 3→2, alludes to this painting’s significance as a three-dimensional work rendered in 2D.

A boldly expressive painter, Ay Tjoe has stated her love for mixing various types of media in her work. Her primary technique involves layering soft washes of paint, combined with hard lines and texture left by bars of oil paint scribbled across the canvas. The result feels intensely physical, reminiscent of works of Chaim Soutine, an Expressionist painter whose infamous painting of a disembowelled ox carcass made use of rough impasto to capture the violent and graphic nature of his subject. Here, Ay Tjoe’s thick clots of pigment and varying tones of scarlet, vermillion and maroon evoke the intensity of her inspiration, a moment that is amorphous in definition but clear in its power and magnitude.

Standing before one of Christine Ay Tjoe’s works is like glimpsing the tumultuous mess of the human psyche – chaotic and frenzied yet coherent, with diverse, sometimes incongruous references to belief and creation. In some ways, the work might be regarded both a private portrait of Ay Tjoe’s innermost personality, and as an expression of the emotional turbulence that everyone undergoes in their time of greatest need. In that regard, 3→2 #05 offers solace, reminding us that even when we feel most in pain, no one is ever truly alone.

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