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Christine Ay Tjoe

Lives and works in Bandung, Indonesia
B. 1973

Through a graphic vocabulary of mark-making, smudging, etching and deliberate colouration, Christine Ay Tjoe channels the impulses of emotional response to create expressive multi-disciplinary works that explore ideas around philosophy, spirituality and the human condition. Executed during periods of intense concentration, in which she enters a near-transcendental state, Ay Tjoe mines the recesses of her own subconscious to evoke the profoundly personal and universally resonant expressions of human experience. She has remarked that ‘human life will forever be the main focus in my works’.

Born in Bandung, Indonesia where she continues to live and work, Ay Tjoe studied graphic design and printmaking at the Bandung Institute of Technology. Her journey into painting commenced later, driven by a love of drypoint – a medium she had exclusively focused on at the beginning of her career. In her early prints and drawings, Ay Tjoe drew extensively from plants, reimagining their complex underground network of roots through animated lines, densely overlaid and accumulated to create masses of organic form. Favouring earth tones in these works – using colours evocative of soil, volcanic rock or charred wood – the works chronicle environmental crisis and subtly forebode a trajectory towards destruction. The study of linear root forms led her to further investigate the expressive potential of line, which would become foundational to her image-making practice, culminating in the development of a distinctive graphic language visible across her prints, drawings and paintings. 

During the late 1990s, Ay Tjoe turned to the human form as her subject, creating prints that explored expressions of the ‘inner self’ through supple, organic lines and subdued swathes of colour to depict contorted and atrophied bodies. In the early 2000s, while continuing to focus on printmaking, she expanded her repertoire to include acrylic painting, mixed media installation and sculpture. Her paintings from this period adopt a figurative approach, excavating hidden layers of angst and abuse buried under facades of power. In some of the works, the artist drew on Christian narratives of violence and abstinence to address notions of emotional and religious forbearance. Probing the relationship between humanity and the cosmos, Ay Tjoe further gestures to mythology and spirituality, as well as to the tensions between good and evil, as affected by the universal human drives of greed, desire and power. 

Since 2009, Ay Tjoe has focused on oil painting, synthesising organic and man-made forms to develop her own unique vocabulary of abstract forms. Achieving a sense of harmony and balance through the interplay of dynamic formal contrasts, the complex and varied gestures of Ay Tjoe’s paintings often appear as if shaped by an urgent, centrifugal force. Using a warm white primer as the ground on which she paints directly in oil bar, Ay Tjoe maintains that drawing is the fundamental driver of her practice: ‘I will always treat every medium as paper and pencil’. Frequently working on several canvases at once, marks extend from one painting to another, most apparent when she creates diptychs in which imagery grafts and splinters across the painting’s dual panels. In a looping journey that suggests both beginnings and ends, Ay Tjoe’s visual narrative reflects its genesis in the circularity of the natural world. 

Attempting to propose a new understanding of the ‘natural’ and make concrete alternative states of being, Ay Tjoe reimagines the notion of darkness as a positive force to be acknowledged, accepted and even brought into focus. Both portentous and liberated from set narratives, in her paintings Ay Tjoe plays on notions of the visible and the invisible, the seen and imagined. Primed blank canvas is contrasted with regions of dense line, creating an image that shifts; one in perpetual oscillation between the two polarities. 

In the works from 2010 onwards, blood red and flesh tones feature prominently, suggesting a more direct connection to the human body and to a visceral sense of physicality. Passages of tactile, thick impasto sit next to translucent washes of colour, animated brushwork alongside delicate line drawing, to create powerful, spectral images in which beauty morphs into abjection and equilibrium dissolves into disharmony. Alluding to both physical and metaphysical states of being, her work underscores the interconnectedness of the mind, body and soul, while exploring their inherent fragility. 

Christine Ay Tjoe was born in 1973 in Bandung, Indonesia, where she studied and continues to live and work. Her work has been exhibited across Asia, including a major retrospective at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan (2018) and in Europe at the Hall Art Foundation in Derneburg, Germany (2022). Ay Tjoe has also been featured in international group exhibitions, including Asia Society Triennial, New York (2020); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2017); National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung (2012); Singapore Art Museum (2012); Fondazione Claudio Buziol, Venice, Italy (2011); Saatchi Gallery, London (2011); Shanghai Contemporary (2010); National Gallery, Jakarta (2009); Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (2005); and the 1st Beijing International Art Biennale, China National Museum of Fine Art (2003).

Contact us about available Christine Ay Tjoe works



In the Studio

Christine Ay Tjoe

From her studio in Bandung, Indonesia, Christine Ay Tjoe talks about her interest in drypoint etching and how her painterly practice is fundamentally based on drawing.


Christine Ay Tjoe, ‘Lesser Numerator’

Explore Christine Ay Tjoe's exhibition ‘Lesser Numerator’ at White Cube Mason's Yard.

In Focus

Christine Ay Tjoe on ‘Wall Prison’

Christine on her 2008 work ‘Penjara Dinding’ (Wall Prison), which was part of her exhibition 'Black, kcalB, Black, kcalB' at White Cube Bermondsey in 2018 – 2019.

In the Studio

Christine Ay Tjoe

From her studio in Bandung, Indonesia, Christine talks about her interest in drypoint etching and how her painterly practice is fundamentally based on drawing.

In the Gallery

Christine Ay Tjoe on ‘Black, kcalB, Black, kcalB’

Christine discusses her first UK exhibition, ‘Black, kcalB, Black, kcalB’ at White Cube Bermondsey in 2018.

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