Christine Ay Tjoe's Abstraction Takes New Directions
Advisory Perspective

Christine Ay Tjoe's Abstraction
Takes New Directions

By Aaina Bhargava | Hong Kong, 28 July 2021

Christine Ay Tjoe's latest paintings on view at White Cube Hong Kong (Spinning in the Desert, 18 May–28 August 2021) strike a timely resonance with the challenges of the past 18 months.

Focused on the 'specific, rare, and beautiful ability of living things', each painting is titled 'Blue Cryptobiosis', which refers to an organism's state of inactivity triggered by extreme environmental conditions, where all metabolic processes are stopped. 'Cryptobiosis offers the idea to virtually halt movement and any definite aim ahead; offering possibilities for a longer life and greater hope instead', the artist has said.

Christine Ay Tjoe, Blue Cryptobiosis #04 (2020–2021). Oil on canvas. 230 x 200 cm.

Christine Ay Tjoe, Blue Cryptobiosis #04 (2020–2021). Oil on canvas. 230 x 200 cm. Courtesy the artist. Photo: White Cube (Kitmin Lee).

Hope is reflected, also, in Ay Tjoe's use of the colour blue in her latest paintings. For the artist, blue represents hope, as it lies in the middle of the colour spectrum.

'Each colour she chooses is a protagonist, it has a character,' explains Capucine Perrot, Associate Director, Artist and Museum Liaison at White Cube. 'She plays with colours like she plays with characters, giving each a personality and different symbolism.'

The use of colour represents a stark departure from her earlier work featured in Black, kcalB, Black, kcalB at White Cube Bermondsey in 2018, which was both visually and conceptually darker, yet her signature styling remains the same. 'The mark-making is similar, as is the way the numerous layers are built up while still allowing the canvas to shine through, making the unseen, seen,' explains Perrot.

Drawing has enabled Ay Tjoe to develop a line that seems charged with an inherent power source. Both raw and refined, gritty and fragile, the paintings leave a gut-felt impression.

Largely influenced by her immediate environment, namely the plant life surrounding her studio in Bandung, Indonesia, the artist's early works were based on studies of tree roots and their movement.

A focus on nature and its interconnected relationship to humans has prevailed throughout her complex practice, whether it's through depicting 'xeno-shoots'—mythical plants the artist invented—or through the unique figurative-abstract hybrid compositions we see in the 'Blue Cryptobiosis' series.

Having found a strong collector base in Asia, Ay Tjoe's emblematic aesthetic has recently garnered attention from Western collectors and institutions. Her work has also seen record breaking auction prices.

In 2017, Small Flies and Other Wings (2013) sold for ten times the record price at 1.5 million USD. Most recently, her piece Second Studio (2013) sold at this year's Sotheby's Spring Auction for 953,000 USD. —[O]

Main image: Christine Ay Tjoe working in her Indonesia studio. Courtesy White Cube. Photo: © Wowo Wahono.

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