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Pearl Lam Galleries (Hong Kong)
2016.09.09 Fri - 2016.10.31 Mon
Opening Exhibition
Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Hong Kong
+852 2522 1428
Opening Hours
Monday–Saturday 10 am – 7 pm
Pearl Lam

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SAM FRANCIS (1923–1994)
“Colour in Space”
Pearl Lam Galleries
Hong Kong
[Press Release]

Hong Kong—Pearl Lam Galleries is delighted to present a solo exhibition of works by American painter Sam Francis (1923–1994). This exhibition is part of the Galleries’ series that sees the work of a distinguished Modern artist presented at its Pedder Building space in Hong Kong each September. With the gallery’s long-standing interest in presenting abstract art and its disparate international origins, it is a privilege to bring a solo exhibition by Sam Francis to Hong Kong for the first time.

Born in 1923 in California, Francis, originally committed to a career in medicine, began to paint as part of his occupational therapy while recovering from back injuries sustained in a plane crash during Army Air Corps training in 1943. In 1950, Francis moved to Paris and enrolled at Fernand Léger’s private academy. Francis called Paris the “Mother of my own psyche”; he was captivated by the changing light and immersed himself in the study of Monet’s Water Lilies, Matisse, and Bonnard. This period spent in Paris was transformative for Francis, who is regarded as a leading interpreter of colour and light.

A true internationalist, Francis travelled extensively and was a resident of France and Japan for nearly a decade. He was fluent in the languages of both countries. Eclectic in his influences, his work holds multiple references, including that of French impressionism, abstract expressionism, colour field painting, Chinese and Japanese calligraphy, and his own Californian roots. Francis had an insatiable appetite for life with many and varied interests, including Jungian analysis and Eastern philosophy. It was these interests that partly led to his use of negative space; he saw this blankness as a silent place of Zen for the viewer. Furthermore, this device is frequently used by Chinese and Japanese artists and Francis would have been influenced by this.

Dedicated to his fourth wife, is To Mako, 1965 is one of the six Edge paintings in the exhibition. In this series, the colour is forced to the edge of the painting, compelling the viewer to contemplate the whiteness and indeed ones’ own self.

Francis worked in various media, including on canvas, paper and print, but it is arguably on paper where he excels. He worked prolifically and experimentally, employing the natural properties of the paper, the absorbency and luminosity of which allowed him with energetic gestures or considered mark-making to exploit the riot of colour so characteristic of his work. He is quoted as saying that “colour is light on fire”. Francis rarely employed black in his work.

The Blue Balls are a central part of Francis’s oeuvre; although not a distinctive riot of multiple colours, they are deeply personal works, an exploration of intense colour, space, and organic forms stemming from his suffering from a painful medical condition. Although throughout his life he suffered from many painful illnesses, he retained an enormous joie de vivre. The oil on paper work Blue Balls, 1962 is a stellar example from this series. Haloed biomorphic objects hover in a white space inhabited by rhythmic splashes of paint.

After Francis died in 1994, 150 small paintings were discovered at his studio, signifying a magnificent burst of creativity in the twilight of his life and heroically painted with his left hand since his right hand was disabled during a fall. A survey and celebration of these final works, Sam Francis: The Last Works, opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1995.

Francis was married five times and was the father of four children. His first marriage was to a high school girlfriend; he next married Californian painter Muriel Goodwin, followed by Japanese painter Teruko Yokoi, and then Mako Idemitsu. He married his last wife, the painter Margaret Smith, in a Shinto ceremony in Japan in 1985. He died in California in 1994.

Francis has exhibited widely and his work can be found in major international museum collections, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA, New York; Kunstmuseum, Basel; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Exhibition Dates
9 September–31 October, 2016
Monday–Saturday, 10am–7pm
Pearl Lam Galleries
6/F, Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central, Hong Kong