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MASK SERIES

Lot No. 1278
Artist: ZENG FANZHI (b.1964)

Series: China Guardian HK 2016 Autumn Auctions
Session: 20th Century and Contemporary Chinese Art
Size: 16.5 x 14 cm
Dynasty: People's Republic of China (1949-)
Estimate: HKD 380,000-480,000
Price Realized: HKD 731,600

Painted in 1999;Colour pencil and crayon on paper;Signed in Pinyin and dated on lower left;Provenance:Private Collection, Europe.ZENG FANZHI(b.1964)This piece of work on paper belongs to the artist’s signature Mask Series in an important period, featuring some of the classic elements of the artist, including a composition of two figures facing the front and a light yellow background. Though not large in size, the piece, which is created in 1999, is arguably the most outstanding piece and recognised piece of work in the series.Yellow is the most commonly used background colour in the Mask Series, such as Mask Series No.6 (created in 1996)and Mask Series No.4 (1997). The artist makes full use of different shades of yellow to convey different emotions. In 2000, Zeng Fan-zhi’s Fly received much attention in a Hong Kong auction as it is a rare piece from the artist featuring two figures side by side. Since then, the Mask Series has been a favourite in the market. In 2013, the Last Supper, a large-sized piece from Mask Series, was sold for HK$180,000,000 by Sotheby’s, a record price in the Chinese contemporary art auction market to the date.The Mask Series uses coloured pencils and crayons to outline the hands, facial features and clothing of the characters. Applying materials and brushes different from ordinary oil painting, Zeng, who has a sharp sense of colours, creates a background with a blend of yellow and blue, resulting in a tranquil atmosphere unique in a piece of work on paper. While it features a yellow background and two full-bodied figures facing front, which are classic elements of the Mask Series, this piece has a special flair differentiating itself from other classic oil painting series.In the painting, the two men are standing side by side, facing the front yet peeking at each other, appraising. Under the two masks, the indistinct wrinkles on their foreheads are the only proof of the life. The artist has created an irony: There is no hint of friendliness in the eyes of the two men, yet they are of similar sizes, wear similar suits and hairstyles, and even have a similar glow on their gelled hair. From these details, we know that the two men are leading similar, unvaried lifestyles in the city, and it is cruelly revealed that although they are guarding against each other, they are in fact of the same kind.

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