Indonesian artist Christine Ay Tjoe has recently opened an exhibition of new works at White Cube’s Bermondsey gallery. The exhibition, titled ‘Black, kcalB, Black, kcalB’, is her debut solo show since joining the gallery and explores notions of darkness through large-scale paintings and drawings. Concerning the new works and their inspiration, Ay Tjoe has said: ‘The reality is that darkness is part of human nature. If we create a distance between it and the self, treat it as something that can be calmed, made docile, be reshaped, freed yet part of ourselves, it is not just the enemy but an eternal life partner.’
Ay Tjoe’s practice is anchored in the fundamentals of drawing and line expression. She gravitates towards mediums that allow for rich expressionism including painting, sculpture, installations and she is no stranger to printmaking.
‘Black, kcalB, Black, kcalB’ hinges on duality: human existence caught between the relationship of idealism and individuality and that of internal and external factors. ‘I am creating a sort of anticipation in thought, a premonition that something could happen; the thought of how we might react to living with the potential darkness that is subconsciously growing within us,’ says Ay Tjoe. She continues: ‘In this increasingly exposed world we live in, the ability to know and anticipate a state that is evolving within the self is more crucial than ever.’ Thus, she explores the human condition through such themes of philosophy and spirituality.
‘Black, kcalB, Black, kcalB’ consists primarily of monochromatic works which is an unusual decision by Ay Tjoe as she often works with colour. In this exhibition, though, only occasionally does one find a spot of colour. Instead, these works exist within the boundaries of black and white, darkness and light. The ‘lyrical’ paintings are highly abstracted interpretations of Ay Tjoe’s exploration of the theme. For the series, Ay Tjoe has explored darkness through her interest in dry point etching, which she then translated it into oil medium. Working with a ‘dry’ oil bar, she manipulates the thickness of the paint creating shades of grey though large areas of the canvases are left white. ‘Black, kcalB, Black, kcalB’ contains a number of paired artworks that create a diptych – or two canvases with a connecting image.
The series compliments the stark galleries of White Cube, drawing visitors through. The monochromatic panels initially seem hard, void of human contact. However, the more time you spend with the artworks, the more obvious signs of human effort becomes adding a quality of humanity. The paintings feel cathartic. They force the viewer to consider each and every work despite their similar qualities. Abstracted subject matter begins to take on life-like forms that ping pong between feelings of darkness and lightness.
Overall, the exhibition is absolutely stunning. ‘Black, kcalB, Black, kcalB’ will be on exhibit through January 20th.