“The inspiration I seek is found in nature, and in the lyrical way it chooses to express itself.” - Chu Teh-Chun
Chu Teh-Chun arrived in Paris in 1955, whereupon exposure to the Western art world almost immediately began to influence his artistic output. Despite his strong background in Chinese painting, Chu’s began to experiment with techniques favored by the Abstract Expressionists, incorporating new mediums and practices into his work. In the 1970s, Chu experimented liberally with evocations of light and shade, but in the 80s Chu Teh-Chun began to seriously incorporate layers of dimensional depth into his work. Using a large Chinese ink brush, Chu experimented with the application of numerous layers of pigment, exploiting oil paint’s natural translucency in order to open up the canvas and capture a rich luminescence. The results were paintings filled with dynamism and airy layers of spatial depth.
Painted in 1989, L’Aube Bleue (Blue Dawn) showcases numerous shades and tints of the color blue, ranging from cerulean to indigo to ultramarine. Despite the title, the work contains no figurative elements, instead using abstract color, light and depth to suggest the idea of breaking dawn. The sweeping, gestural brushstrokes reminiscent of classical ink paintings produce a distinctly ethereal effect when combined with the subtly layered shades of blue. The negative space at the center of the canvas suggests a partially hidden light source illuminating the overall composition, strengthened by the delicate addition of yellow. Chu’s sensibilities toward light resemble those of Claude Monet; both artists were masters at capturing the effect of natural sunlight using pure, vibrant color. Chu’s depiction of a blue dawn recalls Monet’s Morning on the Seine, in which the French artist depicted colorful light breaking through leaves and reflecting against a quiet stream. Although Chu’s work deconstructs the composition of a traditional landscape, his nuanced color palette evokes the same beauty of the sky in the early morning.
The manner in which Chu Teh-chun organizes points, lines, and planes within the overall composition of his work greatly resembles the approach developed by classical Chinese painters and calligraphers. Strong gestural strokes and smooth lines sweep across the canvas surface, embodying a conscious, self-assured sense of rhythm. Combined with the use of colored ink, the result is a dream-like landscape resembling the misty mountain peaks celebrated by ancient literati artists.
Chu’s vibrant brushwork is quietly brilliant, showcasing his virtuosic talent at controlling tone and color. He also displays a sensitivity towards the thickness of the pigment, sometimes using dark swathes of paint and at other times employing a light tinted wash. Just as the early abstractionist Wassily Kandinsky used color as a means of exploring the pure effects of shape and form, Chu allows color to serve as a central focal point, encouraging spiritual contemplation and the projection of one’s imagination.
In L’Aube Bleue, the artist successfully blends Western theories of color and light with the aesthetic spirit of classical Chinese landscape painting. Boldly yet sensitively executed, the work succeeds in combining the unrestrained gestural force of Western abstraction with the delicately poetic lyricism of East Asian art. The loosely rendered landscape is veiled in a dreamlike aura of mystique, leaving the viewer with infinite room for imagination and interpretation.