(ZHU DEQUN, B. 1920)
No. 15 La Source
signed 'CHU TEH-CHUN' in Pinyin; signed in Chinese (lower left); titled 'No. 15 'La Source'' in French; dated '1959' (on the stretcher)
oil on paper, mounted on canvas
54.5 x 35.7 cm. (21 1/2 x 14 in.)
Painted in 1959
Private Collection, Luxembourg

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Lot Essay

When Chu Teh-chun set foot on the soil of France in 1955 and visited the exhibition of Nicolas de Stael, he was deeply inspired by his abstract art. Henceforth his style, as showcased in his works from 1955 to 1956, integrates realistic representation with abstract expression. In 1958, Chu held his first solo exhibition in Paris. Having impressed Maurice Panier, owner of Legendre Gallery, Chu was offered a consignment contract of six years. The consignment meant more than a successful exhibition: it was the first time Chu received such great encouragement and recognition from the art world. Thereafter, Chu indulged himself in the abstract language of points, lines and planes, devoting himself to the exploration of a liberal expression, with pure colours, and of himself.

No. 15 La Source

It might have been a curiosity of an unknown land that led Chu Teh-chun to use Paris's city and street views as themes in his abstract works when he first arrived in Paris. From 1957 onwards, his focus shifted to the disposition of blocks and lines. In the next year, his composition became even more compact, and with an extended use of the blending and spreading techniques the artist created more profound space. The vertically composed No. 15 La Source (Lot 1017) was painted in 1959. The powerful, interspersing black lines neatly illustrate the artist's mature practice in calligraphy and become the focal point of the painting. After exploring and experimenting with forms for three years, Chu went back to his Eastern origin and reverted to the Chinese painting and calligraphic tradition in which swift brushstrokes steer and amalgamate on the whole canvas. The white colour pours like a limpid waterfall from the top left corner and reminds us of La Source of Jean-Auguste Dominique. Ingres, the renowned Neo-Classical artist. In Ingres's La Source, the curve-shaped woman body echoes with the loop of the spring water, engendering a perfect balance between the static and the dynamic; in Chu's No. 15 La Source the succinct lines and the dry, sweeping strokes outline the instant motion of the splashing water. The texture, visualized through the layering of viscous and thin pigments of black, white and red, is under constant transformation, which produces a subtle reflection of lights. All these demonstrate
Chu Teh-Chun's prowess as an artist who advanced from realism to abstractionism. His artwork is not a straight forward appropriation and rearrangement of formal elements; rather, it exhibits how its creator, by way of grasping imaginary features, transforms the core conception into a combination of colour blocks, geometric figures and near-calligraphic lines of the East.
Renaissance de la Nature

In 1965, Dr. Paul Gay invited Chu to a village art fair in the Haute-Savoie region. When he flew over the Alps, the artist had the chance to overlook this grand nature for the first time in his life and was stunned by the magnificent landscape of snow. It was not until later the artist began his series of snowscape until 1985, but he had obviously made the attempt in 1981, to portray the snowy scenery with acrylic paints in Renaissance de la Nature (Lot 1018). Perhaps inspired by the property of his translucent, quick-drying paint, Chu depicts in the work a dynamic charm of the falling, swirling snow - quite different from the static snowy wood that usually appears in Chinese landscape painting. Such direct articulation of sentiment seems to have originated from Abstract Expressionism of the West, but equally apparent has been a Chinese essence instilled in the painting. The inky black blocks of colour evoke the imposing strength of the mountain-and-river landscape or else a colossal monument. In the foreground, the delicate serpentine lines lead the audience to explore the continually changing terrain of nature. The flakes of snow scatter over the canvas, creating a diverse sense of dimension. On the top of the picture are pale-blue lines that intimate the transmuting shades and shadows of the distant sierra under the sun. With all kinds of traditional techniques - sprinkling, dripping, splashing, and sweeping strokes - the artist deconstructs such formal elements as points, lines and planes and suffuses them into it a rich sense of layer to reproduce the snowscape. Chu Teh-Chun, on that account, has moved beyond the intuitive naturalism of the West. To envisage snowscape through the aesthetics of Chinese tradition is for the artist a return to his own ethnic origin and cultural deposits; for this, the Renaissance de la Nature reveals the lofty sentiment of Chu Teh-Chun and his passion for nature.

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