Christine Ay Tjoe was born on December 27, 1973, in Bandung, the capital of Indonesia’s West Java province. From 1992 to 1997, she studied graphic design and printmaking at the Bandung Institute of Technology—the country’s first art academy, established in 1947. The Institute’s partnership with Germany’s Braunschweig University of Art exposed Ay Tjoe to artists, such as Egon Schiele and Horst Janssen, whose draftsmanship would inform her personal style. After graduating, Ay Tjoe briefly worked in the fashion and textile industries. She began exhibiting her work in earnest in 1999, and in 2001, she participated in an exhibition at Galeri Nasional Indonesia where she earned the distinguished “top five” in the Philip Morris Art Awards.
Ay Tjoe’s multi-disciplinary practice includes drawing, sculpture, and installation, however, her focus on painting stems from the scale and ease of expression that canvas provides. As she explained it, canvas “helps me transfer my ideas faster.”
Working primarily with oil sticks, she creates bold slashes or clusters of color, regularly intervening with her hands to intuitively work the medium into the canvas. The artist’s background in dry point etching provided her with deft understanding of line, color, and space—compositional elements that define her arrestingly powerful abstractions.
The cultural diversity of Southeast Asia and Ay Tjoe’s own ethnic background have played a significant role in her work. The daughter of merchants, Ay Tjoe grew up in a Christian, ethnically Chinese family, which stood apart from West Java’s Muslim majority. Her paintings frequently use spirituality, religious mythology, and nature, as frameworks for understanding the psychological underpinnings of the human condition. Using a palette of deep earth tones, natural blues, and saturated reds, punctuated by black scrawls, Ay Tjoe considers how philosophical dichotomies––such as calm and chaos, light and dark, good and evil––persist within personal, communal, and universal contexts. Her creative process serves as means of recording and resolving these binaries, revealing their oneness.
Ay Tjoe continues to live and work in Bandung, Indonesia. Her work has been exhibited throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States. In 2019, Asia Society presented her with the Asia Arts Game Changer Award. The year prior, she was the subject of a major retrospective at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. Ay Tjoe has 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 (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).