• Chinese 20th Century Art (Day  auction at Christies

    Sale 2725

    Chinese 20th Century Art (Day Sale)

    30 November 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1369


    Price Realised  


    (WEI LE TANG, b. 1921)
    signed 'John Way' in English; dated '91' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    127 x 101.5 cm. (50 x 40 in.)
    Painted in 1991

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    Abstract art has become a main aesthetic component in the development of art in the 20th Century. Since the works of Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) at the start of the century, abstract art has overthrown the predominant trend of the Impressionist masters and their pursuit of capturing specific light conditions. Abstract artists abandoned traditional compositions of distinguishable objects and forms executed in the one-point perspective, in favor of an inward exploration in a freewheeling universe of sheer visual color and force. The 1950s and 1960s saw a global surge of artists experimenting in the abstract genre. In China, the pioneers included Zao Wou-ki, Chu Teh-chun, and George Chann. Compared to these three artists, John Way drew the most inspirations from Chinese calligraphy and seal cutting, revealing in his brushwork a true understanding of these Chinese art forms.

    Abstraction (Lot 1369) displays the artistic creativity characteristic of John Way. In this painting, the black ink flows freely on the canvas with the movement of lines reminiscent of the Chinese cursive script. The quick brushstrokes forcefully brush against the harmonious color background, capturing both vitality and tranquility. By controlling the length, thickness and intensity of these lines, John Way presents the kind of rhythm and aesthetics often seen in Chinese calligraphy. Executed in the manner of cursive script, these lines remind one of characters despite their lack of any literal meaning, conveying a sense of vitality and a visual effect of freshness and simplicity.

    John Way's works in the 1950 and 1960s are characterized by the use of intense and bold colors layered on top of each other. From the 1970s onward, traditional Chinese painting techniques became more apparent in his works as he began manipulating his brush like an ink painting. Abstraction (Lot 1370) is a fine example of John Way's mastery over the ink painting techniques such as dripping, splashing, bleeding, and cun rubbing of the ink. He used diluted oil paints to pour over the canvas, let the paint to run across freely on the surface, creating the visual effect of free movement and expansion, and reflecting the realm of emptiness and boundless space often found in Oriental art.

    John Way's ink dripping and pouring techniques were similar to the "action painting" style adopted by Jackson Pollock (1912-1962) popular in New York in the 1950s. Both their paintings impart an overwhelming sense of boundless space, a mirror into the soul and feelings of both artists during the creative process. Way often used vivid colors such as reds, yellows and blues, likely to have been influenced and inspired by Han and Tang dynasties frescos and tri-colored pottery glazes. His love for overglaze enamels was apparent in that he had a small studio in his home for firing ceramics and also manifested through the use of vibrant colours in his paintings.


    Private Collection, Asia


    Shanghai Art Museum, John Way, Shanghai, China, 2001 (illustrated, p. 149).