Auction | China Guardian (HK) Auctions Co., Ltd.
2021 Spring Auctions
Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art

Xu Bing (b.1955)
Revisit a Once Familiar Place(Painted in 2002)

Ink on Nepalese paper

105 × 175 cm. 41 3/8 × 68 7/8 in.

Dated, signed in pinyin, titled in Chinese with an artist's stamp on bottom right

2007, Breakout: Chinese Art Outside China, Edizioni Charta, Milan, p. 91
2011, Xu Bing, Albion Editions, London, p. 214, Ill. 13.8
10 Feb – 26 Aug 2007, Journeys: Mapping the Earth and Mind in Chinese Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
14 Jun – 14 Sep 2014, Rendering the Future – Chinese Contemporary Ink Painting Exhibition, Asia Art Center, Beijing

Asia Art Center, Taipei
Acquired directly by present important private Asian collector from the above

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Asia Art Center, Taipei

The Revolutionary and Innovative Creation of Ink Painting
Xu Bing's Natural and Playful Landscript

During 40 years of his artistic creation, Xu Bing, the internationally renowned Chinese contemporary artist, has used Chinese characters continuously as a starting point for visual image and expression, integrating its historical development with contemporary life to establish his outstanding status as an artist. In 1999, Xu Bing became the MacArthur fellow, the most distinguished award to celebrate creativity and originality. His works have been collected by many international museums such as the British Museum in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and have been shown at important institutions and exhibitions such as the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Venice Biennale.

Ranging from the Book from the Sky to the Square Word Calligraphy, he creates cross cultural and cross generational works from calligraphy. Starting from Reading Landscape, he gradually explored the conceptual aspect of text. Originating from the interpretation of traditional landscape brushwork, he presented the referential nature of hieroglyphs through “text sketching”, endowing new contemporary connotation to the concept that calligraphy and painting come from the same source. As the representative piece of this series, Revisit a Once Familiar Place, with its exquisite brushwork was sent to participate in the exhibition Journeys: Mapping the Earth and the Mind in Chinese Art in 2007 held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The exhibition included the fine pieces of some of the best Chinese artists, from the 12th century to contemporary time.

The Depiction of Essence of Things and the Revolution of the Calligraphy and Painting

The Land script series originated from Xu Bing's invitation by the Finnish Museum of Contemporary Art in 1999 to create sketching in the Himalayas. When facing the natural landscape, Xu Bing saw the text instead. He wrote Chinese characters to replace the depiction of natural scenery, attempting not to point directly to anything specific, but to speak to the essence of something broad. By breaking the boundary between calligraphy and painting, Xu Bing has made the elegant taste of landscape painting more readable.

Replacing Form with Character: Playful Innovations

“It seems that it is distant from one thing, but in reality, it is closer to its spirit.”
——Xu Bing

In Revisit a Once Familiar Place (2002) , tracing back his memory of sketching in the Himalayas three years ago, Xu Bing specifically wrote Chinese characters in oracle bone inscription, official script and running script on Nepalese paper to create scenes that should have been painted in delicate brushwork. Although abandoning realism, Xu deliberately retained the traditional style and the five-shade brushwork technique. He used light ink for the distant mountains, dense ink for the nearby forest, dry brush for the branches, dry ink for the earth and stone, and wet brush for the household, presenting a powerful landscape of text.

This work cleverly replaces form with character. In the horizontal landscape, the hieroglyphic character “mountain” mimics the undulating form of the mountains. The two characters “white cloud” in the official script in light ink create the sense of floating cloud. A large number of oracle-shaped “wood” gather into a forest. Xu Bing used the axe and chisel stroke to depict the squared and upright “stone”, and the hemp fibre strokes for the slender ones. He elongated “earth” to depict the bare land and the characters of “kiln” are seen to build two caves. Xu Bing used light brush and ink on the side of the mountain to portray the natural scenery of the mountain and river in right proportions and density. The viewers' imagination flows when seeing the artwork and they can feel the changes in the landscape. Xu Bing's intention is to shape the personality of each character through the changes in rhythm and shape. With natural reference, Xu Bing has theorized the seemingly absurd things into his artistic system, displaying a unique sense of humor.

In addition to preserving the traditional inkwork, Xu Bing also wrote some prologue on the paper, just as the old style landscape painting. Instead of poems, he wrote lifelike simple sentences like a diary, which make the viewers laugh. In the lush soil surrounded by a fence on the right side, the viewers can clearly read Xu Bing's scribble: There is the colour of beans here, but I don't know what is planted exactly. The rows are very neat. I used to farm on this kind of mountain 30 years ago. We grew beans at that time. The beans are heat-resistant and grow easily, just like the local people. During the Cultural Revolution, Xu Bing was sent to labour in the countryside, which has been expressed through his creativity and turned into a part of the written sketch.

Calligraphy and Painting Come from the Same Source: the Contemporary Possibilities

The text has evolved from the hieroglyphical model of character-making, but what Xu Bing did was the opposite-- to paint landscape in the form of character. The repetitive writing of text, on the one hand, imitates the technique in traditional landscape painting and breaks through the framework with contemporary thinking. On the other hand, through the concrete presentation of text, Xu Bing builds a bridge to reintegrate the natural and the cultural system. Through the new visual code, Xu Bing reinvigorates the contemporary ink painting, as if he is revisiting his hometown.

Price estimate:
HKD: 1,300,000 – 2,300,000
USD: 167,600 – 296,600

Auction Result:
HKD: 2,006,000



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