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    Sale 2630

    Chinese 20th Century Art (Day Sale)

    1 December 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 601


    Price Realised  


    (ZHU DEQUN, Born in 1920)
    No. 76
    signed, dated and titled 'Chu Teh-Chun; 1961; No. 76' in Pinyin, Chinese & English (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    61.5 x 50 cm. (24 1/4 x 19 1/2 in.)
    Painted in 1961

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    Chu Teh-Chun, whose works are unique in their constant stylistic evolvement, has been an engaged artist for the last sixty years. His journey of creation can be roughly divided into four phases: a realistic period during his time in China and Taiwan in 1957; an early abstract style emerged during his early stay in France between 1957 and 1960; a preference of ink wash technique in the 60s to 70s and finally a phase of broad mind expression which he has utilized since the 1980s. This featured 6 works of Chu Teh-Chun, which include abstract styles and imaginary scenes painted during these periods. They systematically display the transformation and stylistic characteristic of Chu's artistic journey.

    In 1955 Chu Teh-Chun who newly arrived in France, was exposed to European and American Abstract Expressionism, Romantic Abstraction and other forms of styles. Chu found Abstract Expressionism, liberating and inspiring, thus propelling him to fully dedicate himself to begin a journey of improvisational visual expression, pure color and introspection. During this period, Chu Teh-Chun's works mainly featured color patches, geometrical patterns and the characteristics of oriental calligraphy. No. 76 (Lot 601) is a fine demonstration of calligraphy's influence on this work; energetic, swift and web-like calligraphic strokes fill the canvas which leisurely allow the eye to wander along the composition. Various geometric patterns are placed
    in visually prominent positions throughout the work, which recall the beautiful structural elements of architecture. It is a poetic display that balances imagination and reality, space and time, heightened by a strong sense of color, to further emphasize the respective theme of No. 76. The use of color, geometric patterns and calligraphic lines as elements of abstract works constitute the profound oriental origin of Chu Teh-Chun's works which are skillful compositions emcompassing artistic beauty and spirituality of Chinese calligraphy and painting. Representationalist painters only use such elements to portray a world of emotion making brushstrokes a medium and tool to give independent aesthetic meaning to the lines and colors. Chu The-Chun's brushstrokes have a distinct sense of movement, a sense of profundity that motivates an all emcompassing universal dynamicism. Chu Teh-Chun's early education consisted of the recitation of the Three-Character Classic and Tang poems, the practice of calligraphy and writing of regular and cursive script. Upon entering the Hangzhou Art School, he continued to practice traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy and studied under the master of Chinese traditional painting Pan Tianshou while simultaneously practicing western painting from masters like Lin Fengmian and Wu Dayu. Years of calligraphic training led to Chu's creation of seemingly effortless yet complex compositions whose brushstrokes displayed a captivating vitality. The principle of Chinese calligraphy and ink painting embodies expressive and freely cursive brushstrokes, as highlighted in the doctrine "Six Principles of Calligraphy"; spirit is captured through the application of the brush while beauty reveals itself through ink. The various renditions of brushstroke form a complex composition emphasizing the practice of traditional Chinese painting to unify the individual strokes demonstrated by Wang Meng's calligraphy that recalls landscape paintings. Chu Teh-Chun's in-depth understanding of such elements have become a vital part of his stylistic expression and artistic exploration. As the western painting world began to be exposed to oriental calligraphy in the 1950s, we find that oil paintings created during this period display an attempt to calligraphic techniques. His experienced calligraphic skill and unique application of this knowledge to his paintings has rendered Chu to be a prominent figure of abstract painting.
    After his initial success in abstract painting in the 1960s, Chu further explored the possibilities of creating a unique artistic style. Facilitated by his admiration for his motherland and its culture, Chu returned to painting on traditional rice paper and embodied the stylistic qualities of ink painting even in his abstract oil paintings. No. 220 (Lot 602) and No.540 (Lot 603) reflect the characteristics of this period. Chu diluted his oil paints in order for him to fluidly spread the colours throughout the canvas in an expressive manner, contrasting traditional ink works which are mainly composed of lines and planes to form an image. The fluid color expansion across the image and the dynamic brush work create an effect that bestows freshness and intensifies the concentrations of colors on the canvas, hence unveiling a dialogue between imagination and reality. Each of the works use a cool or warm colour palette that respectively present abstracted spheres, evoking a rich visual sensation and psychological depth. No. 220 and No. 540 are two exemplarily works of his 1960s and 1970s which were prominently exhibited in France. For Chu, the 1980s was a decade of free artistic expression, embodied in richer and brighter colours; greater tonal variety and large scaled works that display a visually pleasing impression derived from the heavily overlapping colors. In addition to the powerful imagination and embodiment of Chu's emotions, his works reflect his profound temperament and bearing of Chu as an artist. Voyage (Lot 606) and Untitled (Lot 605) are equally fine oeuvres of this period Voiler VI- Snow Landscape (Lot 604) was created by Chu Teh-Chun in the 80s after his journey to the Swiss Alps, which its glorious snowcapped mountains had a profound effect on Chu. Snow Landscape unlike the landscape is not purely white but an amalgamation of beautiful colours; various splashes of bright and fresh colors penetrate the snow and fog, creating a vivid and colorful vision. Untitled creates an ink-wash dripping effect which simulates the morning fog of the west lake over the boundary of the landscape. Voyage of the 1990s, is not a literal landscape painting but rather a pure and concentrated descriptive range of colors that inspires a traveler's passion. As the saying "Every cloud has a silver lining" goes, Voyage displays a broad and shining white brushwork which seems to bring a new dawn after the darkness. It vividly expresses a kind of joy in a journey and the delight of discovery.

    Chu Teh-Chun's works are abstractions of nature that in their resemblance to natural landscapes, are composed of lines, dark and light elements and color and originate in the philosophy of Chinese art. Through freehand brushwork, Chu's painting strives to embody the very essence of nature itself. Chu Teh-Chun once commented on Fan Kuan's abstract colors: "As Fan Kuan said, being a teacher should teach what can be developed; namely, the painter himself is the ruler of all and that is already an abstract concept. However, Chinese people do not use the word "abstraction". Nature provides the notion to the artist that the depicted image should reflect his power of imagination, intellect, ethical quality and character. The ideas of Chinese painting and abstract painting are indeed naturally correspondent to each other." This kind of experience of expression in traditional Chinese painting set a foundation for Chu Teh-Chun's abstract creations, which enabled him to transform his art from representationalism to abstraction, smoothly abandoning his artistic associations with representation and forming an abstract realm for his creations. The abstract landscape paintings of Chu held ties with traditional Chinese literature, where more than a literal transcription of the landscape embodiment is depicted; the emotional reaction to the landscape is embodied. In his works, the splendid and imaginative creation inspires the grandness of the universe, unlike the impressionistic painters of his contemporary. Chu in turn captures a spiritual essence in compositional novelty that is unique to himself. Chu Teh-Chun highly admires Wang Wei, a poet of the Tang Dynasty. Wang Wei had a famous poem: "A stream of smoke rises on the massive desert and the setting sun by the river grows round." This poem reflects Chu's approach to express the spirituality of nature through the most basic elements of geometric patterns and shapes. It is through this means of representation that allows for a direct encounter with the philosophy of life and destiny. This kind of nature cosmology has been deeply established in Chinese culture and is stated by one of the founders of Taoism, Lao Tze. A saying of Taosim states: "Tao bears one, one bears two, two bears three and three bears all in the universe."All images of the world can be summarized with the most basic natural laws and elements. The theory by Zhuangzi "Logic is generated from immaterialism, spirit is generated from Tao, form basics are generated from spirit and all the objects are generated from the forms." Material is generated from immaterial, which is not described with the specific object in front of eyes, but only represented by abstracts and symbols, which directly divert one to the essence of truth. This is the philosophic concept of "Capture the Essence Beyond the Image" and "Image Beyond Image," well expressed in Chu Teh- Chun's abstract landscape painting. In his work, he employs the most basic artistic elements - line and color fields which are used to embrace and sketch the dynamic representation of the universe; a Taoist approach to art. Chu Teh-Chun's artistic language is rich as he merges romantic Western artistic practices of the 1950s with a strong lyrical and spiritual practice of Chinese calligraphy and painting. His abstract landscape paintings not only encompass a dialogue with the universe, discovering the origin of the universe and the source of life, but also a forward marching vision to incorporating the artist's emotion. The appreciation of Chu Teh-Chun's work is a spiritual journey in itself, going beyond the abstract colors and further travelling to a boundless meditative world, although his works may have originated from China, but indeed, they have conquered now the world.


    Private Collection, Asia


    Paris, France, Galerie Henriette Legendre, 1961.