2021 marks the 40th anniversary of Alisan Fine Arts. To celebrate this major milestone, the gallery is excited to present a joint exhibition of two globally renowned 20th century artists, American abstract painter Sam Francis and Chinese diaspora Walasse Ting, the latter whom Alisan Fine Arts has been working with since the gallery’s early days. The exhibition will reveal the subtle yet intriguing relationship between Ting and Francis through their works.
Consisting in total of 18 works on paper created between the 1960s to the 1990s by both artists the exhibition highlights the influence of Abstract art upon their residence in New York, where Ting and Francis met during the 1950s and grew to become lifelong friends. Whilst both their works display individual styles, there are subtle similarities that hint at how they have influenced each other. To round off the show, a selection of archival material showcasing the relationship between Ting and Francis will be on display. This exhibition marks the first time Alisan Fine Arts will be exhibiting Francis’ paintings and will be the first in a series of important shows the gallery has planned for its 40th celebration.
Walasse Ting and Sam Francis were both born in the 1920s to artistic families. In 1948, Ting left Shanghai at the age of 19 to move to Paris. There, he befriended members of the avant-garde art group ‘CoBrA’, including Karel Appel, Asgar Joan, and Pierre Alechinski. In 1957, he moved to New York where he met Sam Francis. In 1964, Ting created One Cent Life, a collaboration between 28 renowned European and American Pop Artists and Abstract Expressionist painters such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana and Robert Rauschenburg. The 170 page publication contains Ting’s poems illustrated by 62 original lithographs including these well-known artists. Francis, who by that time had already gained international fame not only assisted in editing the project and introducing Ting to the publisher EW Kornfield, but also supported the project financially. In 1972, together with Joan Mitchell, Ting and Francis had a group exhibition Fresh Air School at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Several years later, in 1977, Ting won the American Guggenheim Foundation Painting Award. During this period, while his works consisted of mostly splattering and running brushstrokes in florescent acrylic paint, he had already begun to explore the use of colour with his figures. These experiments ultimately lead to the sultry women paintings we are familiar with today and are the focus of this exhibition.
Francis started painting in 1945 at the age of 21 during his recuperation from an injury he sustained while serving in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. After completing his MA from the University of California, Berkley, he moved to Paris in 1950 where he further explored the “Drip Painting” technique which he is recognized for today. While in Paris he became interested in Oriental ink painting and Zen Buddhism. Although Ting and Francis did not meet while they were both in Paris during these years, it is no doubt that Francis’ interest in Eastern philosophy and Ting’s interest in Western art drew them together when they later met in New York. Francis was deeply influenced by Mark Rothko’s abstract art and Jackson Pollock’s action paintings but like Ting was not part of any specific art group. Together Francis and Ting shared the same enthusiasm for creation, the joy of beautiful women and the love of meeting new people. The two shared a strong connection throughout their lives as evident in their bi-coastal visits and correspondence, the last of which Francis received from Ting, a month before he passed away in 1994.