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2024 Spring Auctions > Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art
Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art

Geng Jianyi (1962-2017)
Untitled(Painted in 1993)

Watercolour on paper

72.5 × 52.8 cm. 28 1/2 × 20 3/4 in.

Signed in Chinese and dated on bottom right
ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai
Important Private Collection, Asia

Life Is a Dream, a World of Dust It Seems
Geng Jianyi's Classic Interchange of Light Portraits

"I only hope to make people fall into a dream with my colours and structures."
——Geng Jianyi

Chinese contemporary avant-garde artist Geng Jianyi devoted his life to the artistic practice of eliminating the distance between the audience and the artwork. His avant-garde philosophy, concise painting language, and adept use of intangible emotional narrative through images connect viewers to themselves through various forms of symbolic imagery. Born in 1962 into a military family in Henan, Geng revealed exceptional artistic talent during his studies. In 1981, he enrolled in the Oil Painting Department of Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts (now China Academy of Art) and gained fame with his graduation works four years later. Geng's philosophy of welcoming viewers to interpret in various dramatic ways became a crucial benchmark in the "85 New Wave" movement, showcasing his exploration of the facial expressions of characters. As art critic Karen Smith stated, "Geng Jianyi participated in almost all exhibitions held in China and internationally by Chinese artists in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, establishing his position as a contemporary avant-garde artist." In 1993, he was among the first Chinese artists invited to participate in the Venice Biennale. His works are now collected by numerous renowned institutions, including Tate Modern in London, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the M+ Museum in Hong Kong. Geng passed away in 2017, and in 2022, his major retrospective exhibition was showcased in Shanghai and Beijing's UCCA, continuing to show its unique value.

You in Me, and Me in You

The artwork Untitled is part of his Interchange of Light series, created between 1990 and 2002. Geng repeatedly extracts the illuminated parts of different figures, overlapping and depicting them, leaving only the areas receiving light and shadows. In 2022, this series was chosen as the poster for Geng Jianyi's major retrospective exhibition, emphasizing its significance in the artist's works. Against a deep indigo background in Untitled, a warm, ripple-like camouflage pattern emerges with a blurred facial outline. The facial features are composed of irregular puzzle-like elements, as the artist extracts "illuminated faces" of multiple individuals in light and shadow, resulting in the process of "receiving light—traces—overlap—dissolution." The detailed complexity of the artwork contrasts with its simple and flat composition, blending cold and warm, stillness and movement, creating an ultimate fusion of colour and lines. Geng Jianyi once said, "When the appearances of individuals overlap, they are no longer specific individuals. This kind of abstraction is instinctive in Chinese culture—we are more accustomed to an atmosphere of ‘You in me, and me in you.'" This method of extracting and reconstructing portraits from myriad images allows viewers to find their own position within the painting. Just as the artwork incorporates the imagination of the interpreter, the figures in the painting are both the artist and every viewer, prompting deep reflection.

Price estimate:
HKD: 80,000 - 120,000
USD: 10,200 - 15,300

Auction Result:
HKD: 372,000



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