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    Sale 2703

    Asian Contemporary Art and Chinese 20th Century Art (Evening Sale)

    24 May 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 538


    Price Realised  


    (ZHAO CHUNXIANG, 1913-1991)
    signed 'Chao' in Pinyin; dated '56' (upper left)
    mixed media
    101.6 x 122 cm. (40 x 48 in.)
    Painted in 1956

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    Integrating the Oriental and Western aesthetics was a common mission of both Eastern and Western artists in the twentieth century. With this mission in mind, Chao Chunhsiang made his way with greater sense of boldness and ebullience and, therefore, more controversy. On the basis of multi-elemental fusion, he did not insist on fusing Chinese and Western styles to create new elements. On the contrary, he took a new path, in an attempt to retain the core essence of both Chinese and Western arts, by being diversified and flexible in his usage of the media, bringing together ink, splash-ink, mercury fluid, paper, acrylics, collages, mixed media, fluorescence and other elements of Chinese and Western arts, so that they could 'burn in one furnace,' yet each remains individualistic. Through this unique path of artistic creation, Chao invites viewers to travel between the concrete and the abstract, the meaningful and the meaningless, the traditional and the modern, the alienated and the whole, in a relativity of interesting ambiguity and anti-harmony. The resulting visual impacts, generated by the interlocking of contrasts and conflicts, are the most unique elements in Chao's works. The fusion of media and style can be seen as a personification of the artist and revealing of his vivid personality and his pursuit for creative vitality, originality, freedom of artistic expression. His work Untitled (lot 538) included in this evening sale is a superb demonstration of Chao's style.

    "Work that fails to be fully personalized with original style, cannot go to the people' heart.
    --- Chao Chunhsiang

    In Untitled, the artist makes a powerful brush drawing with bold and rough brushstrokes, manipulated through a range of brushwork from splashing, spilling to sprinkling, in magnificent momentum. The highly charged lines in vivacious green, at the center of the painting, and the vigorously dense and thick oil, in particular, carry the maximum artistic expression that glows from within, creating a strong expressive effect. The oil painting brush used by the artist was not ordinary; it was made of thin goat hair, tied with a large sponge, and blade, to combine the glossy varnish of oil paintings by using a mixture of turpentine, paulownia and linseed oil. The oil pigments were made thicker and heavier by adding a solvent of chemicals such as nylon stockings, formed upon combustion, so that they could free-flow on the canvas surface, guided by the artist's brushstroke, and tinged with imagination and creativity. The inky black lines in drips on the left side of the canvas exemplify the use of a unique "spilling and sprinkling" technique, that was frequently used by Chao Chunhsiang in his late works of acrylics and collages. In fact, the "drip-lining", "splashing", "spilling", "sprinkling" and other creative techniques of brushwork can be found in his early oil paintings.

    Untitled was created in 1956, when the artist received the invitation and support of the government of Spain, to stay in Spain for further study and solo exhibitions. The style he developed in Spain could be seen as an extension of what he adopted in his years in Taiwan - abstract expressionism, which aims to express the artist's styles and emotions by exploring the relationship between color and composition. Beneath the whirlwind ebullience in the brushstrokes in Untitled, there lies the artist's meditation on the spirit of ink painting and good techniques. The work is a refined artistic expression of personality and style, which can find parallels in the cursory calligraphy of Zhang Ru. Chao often emphasized that while painting, "you cannot make the brushwork go too fast, too fast will make it a game by the hands, not issued by the heart", "the skills of painting, and the depth and substance of its content, cannot be build alone by courageous boldness, but depends on a lot of factors to be cultivated by the artist, and one of them is thinking." Chao maintains always a consummate balance between thorough calculation and intuitive expression. One would agree on this after being stunned by the dancing vitality in the ink in his paintings, which seems to have transcended the narrow limitations of space within the frame, as if they were 'leaping' out of the plane surface, with such vibrancy that makes the lively, free, flexible mind of the artist come alive. The combination of colors is also the result of meticulous calculation. The three predominant colors - pitch-black, brown-green and gray - with their unique combination and tonal variations, adds to the richness of colors and texture, lending a layering effect to the painting, which arrives at the ultimate conceptual state of Chinese ink painting, including the concepts of "Mo Fen Wu Cai" (one ink can render five colors), and "Qi Yun Sheng Dong" (Qi flow with life). In an abyss of colors and brushstrokes, all forms are dissolved, leaving behind the inspiration and intuition at the very instant of creation. The expression of the self and temperaments in their original forms, in Chao's words, is a mode of creation in 'return to the Nature'. Chao's ideals of artistic creation and his pursuits for personal styles and subjective experience inspire us to rethink and redefine the true meaning of Art.

    "I should cultivate my personality with more hysteric passion. It is the soul of my painting. Now there seem to be some ready-made, dripping images right in front of my eyes. A wildness mingled with bold lines that look in a mess but not really in a mess - lines that are really so bold."

    --- Chao Chunhsiang: Diary. Mid-March, 1962.


    Alisan Fine Arts, Chao Chun- Hsiang, Hong Kong, China, 1997 (illustrated in black and white, plate 221, p. 159).