“When I see a beautiful woman [and] I see flowers, its beauty makes me feel intangible, melancholy, love, refreshed, different, and reborn. I want to use different colours to express my inner feelings and emotions in my paintings” -Walasse Ting
Christie's is honoured to present an evening (Lot 43 Love Me Love Me) and day sale featuring the works of Walasse Ting, promising a full display of the artist's innovation and originality through a range of masterpieces from his different periods on a variety of subjects. According to major auction database platforms, this auction rarely features a large-format work (over 1.5m in length) with pastel as its primary medium, which presents an exceedingly rare opportunity and promises to open a new chapter for the auctions market.
WALASSE TING THE UNPRECEDENTED: EXPERIMENTS IN MEDIUM AND TECHNIQUE
This feature introduces seven works involving canvas, paper, pastel, acrylic, oil paint, watercolour, and other mediums, showing off a new dimension of Ting's varied techniques and introducing collectors to a new and different Walasse Ting. Outside Looks Raining (Lot 323) is rendered through bold and rapid strokes in pastel with a heavy and solid texture which varies according to the artist's fancy, which reminds one of the brushstrokes from the CoBrA movement, and also reveals Ting's open and whimsical style. Love Me Love Me and Lobster Dinner (lot 324) reflect a wholly different technical experiment on Ting's part. The smooth, even, and finely-textured skin of the female bodies is perhaps under the influence from Pop Art to level large surfaces, in the process showing the artist's ambition to take the best of Western art and develop them into his own artistic vocabulary. Autumn Flowers (Lot 321) is yet another example of Ting's versatility, using dripped and splashed acrylic paint to fill the canvas. This can be read as a response to contemporary American Abstract Expressionism, modifying Pollock's technique to create Ting's own cacophonous and powerful stylistic language. Lemon Tree (lot 322) also employs the technique of dripping and splashing acrylic paint onto the canvas, yet conveys a totally different visual experience with its consonant balance between the flat blue background and the dripping from the top. As a testimony of Ting's grasp on abstract language, Autumn Flowers and Lemon Tree together present the joys and passions in life. Outside Looks Raining makes use of pastel as the primary medium, making them among the artist's most experimental works from the 1980s; the rarity of the medium and brilliance of the theme also places it on a class of their own on the auction market.
UNLEASHING THE POTENTIAL OF COLOURS
Colours are extremely important to Ting's art. He said that "when I see a beautiful woman and a flower, that beauty fills me with an invisible sorrow and love which is fresh and unique; it makes me a new man. I wish to use different colours to present my heart's desires and emotions in my paintings." In Love Me Love Me, Outside Looks Raining and Lobster Dinner, the shiny blue eyeshadow, alluring red cheek shade, vivid yellow flowers, and bright auburn hair are all boldly coloured and eye- catching without losing whimsy, injecting a sense of humour. The protagonists all feature hair, eye shadows, and lips in different colours – all of them varied and vibrant, indirectly characterising the women's personality and temperament, not unlike how Warhol using different colours to print the same portrait of Marylin Monroe. The theme of nudity is a recurring one in Ting's decades of creative expression and can be seen as a vessel of his experiments with colour, in search of the possibilities of using colour to present personality, feeling, and the human condition. Autumn Flowers and Lemon Tree utterly present how the artist uses visual imagery to express his innermost sentiments. The discordant splashes of neon paint in dots of yellow, blue, and red recall humanity's shared visceral experience through our senses, and the intense colours are testaments to the artist's life and artistic philosophy. Under his hands, the flowers in Outside Looks Raining transcend to a state to eternal blossom in shades of hyper-realistic colours; their bloom is frozen on the canvas and reminds viewers of Ting's mantra to carpe diem and face oneself honestly.
HEART'S TIE TO CHINESE PAINTINGS
The spirit of Chinese paintings has never left the artist's mind. The flowing and precise contours in Lobster Dinner masterfully sketch a gourmet feast with a remarkably economical number of lines, showing off the artist's confidence and skills. Beauty (Lot 363) and Untitled (Lot 364) are also prime evidence of the artist's expertise in painting noble women. In terms of composition, Ting displays choices that are filled with nuances from Chinese paintings. Lemon Tree uses colour to demarcate space. The versatility of acrylic paint reminds one of the manifold nature of Chinese ink, dripping, splashing, brushstrokes and so on. The tension between controlled and free-flow movements as well as how the spaces contrast with each other, demonstrate to us a finely-tuned yin and yang accompanied by Eastern intrigue. The topleft and top-right corners in Lobster Dinner can be seen as the woman's hair or a blank space left in a pure colour, filled with room for imagination just like paintings, marking Ting as an undeniable founding father in the new school of Chinese paintings.
WORLDWIDE FAME: CONNECTIONS WITH WESTERN ARTISTS AND COLLECTIONS IN WORLD-CLASS MUSEUMS
Ting left home from a young age and travelled around the world, making friends with artists everywhere and joining different art movements in various places at the same time, steadily building the reputation his works enjoy today. In 1952, he met CoBrA artists such as Jorn and Alechinsky in Paris. In New York in 1958, he met Pop Art and Abstract Expressionist masters such as Warhol and Francis thanks to his studio's proximity to their workshops. His collection of art and poetry titled 1¢ Life published in 1964 thus saw these giants of the Western art world creating prints for him, and the work is the best evidence yet of his impressive network of friends around the world. His creations are in the collection of over forty top museums across four continents today, such as New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pompidou Centre in Paris, China Art Museum in Shanghai, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, National Gallery of Australia, and more. He also received a painting fellowship from the Guggenheim Museum as early as in the 1970s, proving unambiguously his recognition by fine art institutions around the world.