Chao's works are at once striking yet calming. On viewing them, one cannot help but notice the artist's profound affinity with nature and understanding of the world around him. Imbued with strong spiritual and philosophical sensitivities, Chao's works are the product of a unique infusion of traditional Chinese concepts with Western modernism.
The artist's ceaseless perseverance of his own individual style and solitary years spent in New York indeed work to demonstrate his firm values and enduring dedication to bridging the differences between Eastern and Western art forms. As the artist stated himself,'My whole life, time, space, outer and inner soul are totally immersed in Eastern and Western arts.'
Born in Henan, North China, Chao was deeply influenced by his father, a scholar and artist who not only introduced him to traditional Chinese painting, but also installed in him a fundamental knowledge and respect for Confucianism and the philosophies of ancient China. Further education at the National Hang-chou Art Academy impregnated the young artist with a deep sense of spiritual heritage that was to be reflected throughout his oeuvre.
'Abstract in Black' (Lot 213) is a particularly powerful painting. Its darkened tangle of shades and textures constantly invites our gaze deeper, encouraging a further questioning of the artist's original intent. It is a striking example of the artists' skill in unifying such powerful, polar colours - black, red and white - in such perfect harmony. Chao's use of lighting in this work enhances themes of balance and spirituality where spectacular tonal contrasts bring to the viewer a sense of transcendence and mysticism. Despite such strong colouring the overall aura of the composition is in perfect concord and we are left in peace to contemplate the strong meaning behind the artist's meticulous, yet free- flowing brushwork. 'Abstract in Black' initially appears to be very much in line with the New York school of Abstract Expressionism in which Chao found himself immersed during the late 1950's and early 1960s. Chaos works have indeed frequently been likened to works by Jackson Pollock (fig.1). On closer inspection, however, we can detect within the apparent chaos and slashing brush strokes, meticulous composition and curvilinear lines, arisen directly from the artist's thorough training in the traditional art of calligraphy.
The free flowing energy is directly conducive to Chao's Taoist principles, whilst the appearance of rough textural elements can be seen to resemble that of bronze sculptures from the early Shang period. "The main force that has motivated Chinese culture for the last 4,600 years is 'IChing.' It originated with the Three Emperors and culminated with Confucius. Observers of the way of Heaven apprehend the fact that the billions of planets, the sun and the moon attract each other thus causing a 'balance' or equilibrium, and that changes in wind, cloud, thunder, rain, lightening, light, daytime, nighttime are but natural phenomena. Observers of the way of the Earth apprehend the truth of spring, summer, autumn, winter, birth, death, flourishing, wilting, hurricane, water flow, etc. Observers of the way of human use the principles of 'balance' and opposition' to deal with humanity so as the effect a pleasant perpetuity in both mind and material and to help in governing the land towards the final objective of 'one world"
Chao's embrace of Western modernism with its emphasis on abstraction and rejection of preconceived form may also be seen as an extension of ancient the Taoist and Buddhist concerns with essence, spontaneity and free flowing naturalness. His spiritual approach and unique fusion of apparently oppositional forces can only become more relevant in years to come.