Overview

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Yan Pei-Ming (B. 1960)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT BELGIAN COLLECTION
Yan Pei-Ming (B. 1960)

Mao au Balcon

Details
Yan Pei-Ming (B. 1960)
Mao au Balcon
signed in Pinyin and Chinese, titled and dated '"Mao au Balcon" 1.07.2000 Yan Pei-Ming' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
98 3/8 x 98 3/8in. (250 x 250cm.)
Painted in 2000
Provenance
Galerie Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2000.
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.

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Alexandra Werner
Alexandra Werner

Lot Essay

'For me, the portrait is about the soul, about humanity, through the eyes you can see the person behind'
(Y. Pei-Ming, quoted in Yan Pei-Ming: The Way of the Dragon, exh. cat., Kunsthalle, Mannheim, 2005, pp. 101-102).

'Art is about man. It speaks to people. Portrait is like a mirror, it reflects to us who we are, what we are. My work always orients towards human beings, it's the centre, the fundamental element of my work. If you ask me to do abstract painting, I can't handle it. I am interested in human beings'
(Y. Pei-Ming, quoted in S. Ting 'Interview: YAN Pei-Ming', initiArt Magazine, http:/www.initiartmagazine.com/interview.php?IVarchive=6 [accessed 31 August 2013]).


Towering above the viewer, the energy is palpable in Yan Pei-Ming's monumental canvas Mao au Balcon, 2000. The expressionism in Yan's works brings about a dynamic tension between the expanse of the billboard-size scale canvas and the sculptural quality of the thickly applied paint. In this exceptional portrait of Chairman Mao, Yan renders his features in a rich impasto of blood red tones highlighted with white tints, which dissolve into near-abstraction upon closer view.

The immediacy of the broad sweeping brush strokes conveys the physical presence of the iconic leader of China's Communist revolution and leader of the People's Republic of China. Full of power and agency, Yan depicts Mao standing proudly from a balcony, arm extended as if in mid speech. Applying paint with a large brush or sometimes a broom, the artist's unusually broad, sweeping brush stokes and thick ribbons of dripping paint achieve a sense of urgency. The economy of his marks have an almost 'automatic' quality, as if revealing Yan's visceral and subconscious feelings towards his subjects during the time of their creation. Painted at a distance from his subjects both physical and temporal, Yan's portrayal of his subjects is a distillation of experience and memory, at once personal and collective. Painting exclusively in a monochromatic or bi-chromatic palette, here the artist has chosen the brilliant red, distilling all of the connotations with Community China and Mao's little red book, maintaining that 'red is the strongest colour. It is the first colour that enters into the vision. It signifies danger, alert. (Y. Pei-Ming, quoted in S. Ting 'Interview: YAN Pei-Ming', initiArt Magazine, http:/www.initiartmagazine.com/interview.php?IVarchive=6 [accessed 31 August 2013]).

A familiar yet indescribable pose of Mao positioned on a balcony, Yan paints from memory, recalling images gleaned from newspaper photos or other mementos. Yan's artistic output is almost exclusively based around portraiture, which grows in depth through the use of near-obsessive repetition of its subjects. Yan draws from a wide range of subjects for his portraits; he paints individuals, typically at monumental scale, fixating primarily on self-portraits, family members, anonymous strangers, prostitutes, victims of crimes or disasters, or more iconic figures like Chairman Mao, Pope John Paul II, Bruce Lee, President Barack Obama, and the Buddha. A dominant theme linking all of these works is Yan's decided interest in mortality and experience in the search for identity in cultural icons, family relationships, and in the unpredictable and inescapable accidents of fate. Within his chosen vocabulary, the creation of these images serves as a process of externalization, one that allows Yan an extended meditation on the persons in his life, the meaning of their existence, and the ephemeral subjective quality of the artist's relationship to his subject. As the artist suggests, 'for me, the portrait is about the soul, about humanity, through the eyes you can see the person behind.' (Y. Pei-Ming, quoted in Yan Pei-Ming: The Way of the Dragon, exh. cat., Mannheim, Kunsthalle, 2005, pp. 101-2).

Born in Shanghai but based in France since 1980, Yan Pei-Ming was among the first group of Chinese to leave the country as it was just opening to the world, and was one of the youngest artist to establish themselves in France. Emigrating from China when he was only 20, Yan attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Dijon, France. Though Yan's technique is engrained in a classically 'Western' painting genre, this style has certain corollaries with Chinese Zen calligraphers, who similarly would sometimes use overly large brushes in order to sidestep their 'conscious' impulses and give rise instead to a less mediated form of expression. Yan's unique aesthetic traverses the line between traditional Chinese painting techniques and Western-inspired compositions, resulting in an extraordinary body of work around the portraiture genre. As the artist remarked 'art is about man. It speaks to people. Portrait is like a mirror, it reflects to us who we are, what we are. My work always orients towards human beings, it's the centre, the fundamental element of my work. If you ask me to do abstract painting, I can't handle it. I am interested in human beings'. (Y. Pei-Ming, quoted in S. Ting 'Interview: YAN Pei-Ming', initiArt Magazine, http:/www.initiartmagazine.com/interview.php?IVarchive=6 [accessed 31 August 2013]).

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