Auction | China Guardian (HK) Auctions Co., Ltd.
2019 Autumn Auctions
Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art

Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983)
Shepherd(Painted in 1982)

Ink and color on silk mounted on jute mat

88 x 48 cm. 34 2/3 x 18 8/9 in.

Signed in Chinese on middle right; Stamped with two artist's seals on middle right and bottom left
28 Oct – 28 Dec 2018, Reminiscence of Singapore's Pioneer Art Masters: Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Chong Swee, Chen Wen Hsi, Liu Kang, Composition Pte Ltd, Singapore

Acquired directly by present Singaporian collector from the artist's relative

This work is accompanied with a certificate of authenticity signed by the son of the artist

Capturing the Essence of Southeast Asia
'Shepherd' by Cheong Soo Pieng, Father of Modern Singaporean Art

Cheong Soo Pieng was born in Xiamen, Fujian Province, China, in 1917. He later studied art at Xinhua Art Academy in Shanghai and after moving to Singapore in 1946 encountered new artistic ideas from the world. In 1952, together with Chen Wen-hsi, Liu Kang and Chen Chong Swee, Cheong traveled to Bali Island in Indonesia to paint from nature. The huge difference in Bali from that of China had a major visual impact on all four of men, giving rise to a unique expression form of painting imbued with Southeast Asian characteristics - using powerful colors to draw attention to local people and customs, in what was an important chapter in the history of South Asian painting. From 1961-1963, Cheong lived in the United Kingdom where he adopted a forward looking artistic vision based on lyrical abstract expressionism. At that time, he and Zao Wou-ki held solo exhibitions at the renowned Redfern Gallery in London, as a result of which he received much praise and attention from the Western art world. Later, Cheong returned to Singapore with his new lyrical abstract expressionist forms, where he created the semi-abstract “Southeast Asian Landscape series,” with works that provide a new impetus to the modernist reform of Southeast Asian aesthetics. In the 1980s, the artist revisited ink painting and took the traditional Singaporean creative model to new limits, established a foundation for the development of modern art and in the process became one of the leading figures in the “Southeast Asian Painting School.”

Profound Tranquility: Bali Portraits - A Confluence of East and West
In 1981, Cheong Soo Pieng completed Shepherd, widely considered a later masterpiece that perfectly showcases his style. In this painting we see a young Balinese girl, hands clasped together, eyes closed and head tilted downwards as a prayer. Her oval face, almond-shaped eyes, arched eyebrows and long limbs highlight the typical features of a Bali native. Cheong originally learned this distinctive look from trips to Bali in the 1950s where he observed the depictions of characters in traditional shadow puppet plays. Later, the artist's works also incorporated the Cubist structure he saw in Europe, as can be seen in the way he focuses on simplifying and extending the lines outlining the woman's headscarf, arms and body, using geometric composition to imbue the figure with a more elongated modern feel. The goat in the lower part of the picture is a frequently used image in Cheong's work and the way its body is stretched downwards corresponds with the lines extending the young girl's arms upwards to create a sense of momentum. Indeed, the coming together of the shapes speaks to an internal spirit of connectivity. It could even be derived from the portrait of the Good Shepherd in the Bible, depicting Jesus and a flock of sheep, thereby alluding to a sense of religious purity. The background in the upper central area of the painting is left blank a common technique in ink painting, ensuring the full attention of the viewer is drawn to the central character. This creates a painting effect that freezes time and space, while highlighting the peace and tranquility of Southeast Asian society.

Harmony in Divergence: Cultural Heritage in a New Medium
As part of his pursuit of fine and softer ink lines, when Cheong Soo Pieng painted Shepherd he chose to use silk instead of traditional paper or canvas, which made it easier to showcase the tranquil beauty of the Southeast Asian woman. At the same time, the artist's use of the painting style of an arched church doorway as an external frame is a relatively rare technique, one that is instantly reminiscent of the elegance and religious import of the sculpture Pius by Michelangelo.
Cheong also innovatively framed the silk cloth using a hard texture straw mat, a combination of materials only previously employed in his work A Quiet Afternoon (from around the 1980s). Shepherd is the first piece by Cheong Soo Pieng to be auctioned that combines these elements, perfectly showcasing his wonderfully natural use of diverse materials. The fine smoothness of the silk and roughness of the jute mat creates a powerful contrast that visually sparks the rich layering in the work. This also imbues the gentle beautiful lines with a toughness of texture, perfectly combining the divergent properties of different materials from the inside out. Moreover, by creating a harmonious painting world comprised of visual, emotional and cultural elements, Cheong showcases a lifetime of artistic attainments.

Price estimate:
HKD: 350,000 – 450,000
USD: 44,600 – 57,400

Auction Result:
HKD: --



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