(ZHU DEQUN, French/Chinese, B. 1920)
Une belle journée (A Beautiful Day)
signed in Chinese; signed 'CHU TEH-CHUN' in Pinyin; dated '81-82' (lower right of the right panel); signed and titled in Chinese; titled and inscribed 'Une belle journée diptyque' in French; dated '1981-1982' (on the reverse of each panel)
oil on canvas, diptych
each panel: 162 x 130 cm. (63 3/4 x 51 1/8 in.)
overall: 162 x 260 cm. (63 3/4 x 102 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1981-1982
Artist Publishing Co., Overseas Chinese Fine Arts Series II: Chu Teh-Chun, Taipei, Taiwan, 1999 (illustrated, plate 99, p. 159).

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Lot Essay

"In nature I hear the voice of the universe, the voice of humanity, and the voices of East and West. In it I find a wellspring of inspiration that gives poetic meaning and feeling to my work. The act of creation is pure spontaneity; it is acting naturally without deliberate thought. As in traditional Daoist teaching, creation is "the pouring out of the romantic feeling in your heart."
-Chu Teh-Chun

Chu Teh-Chun once acknowledged classical Chinese landscape painting as a major influence on his work, noting that he particularly admired the imposing style and lively manner of the 10th-century painter Fan Kuan. He added, "Fan Kuan has said that 'learning from nature is better than learning from man, and the human heart is an ever greater source for learning than nature.' What he meant by that was that he considered the painter dominant, and that there was already a concept of abstraction. The Chinese people just didn't use the term 'abstraction,' that's all. Nature is absorbed into the artist's thought and then undergoes refinement, and it is the power of the artist's imagination, his sensibility, and his inner character that are revealed on the canvas. This is where the concepts behind Chinese painting and abstract painting very neatly come together."

Gerard Xuriguera once commented on Chu Teh-Chun's painting in 1982, he thinks his work reveals a deep harmony with the conflicting powers ruling the universe, as he strikes the perfect balance between the East and West, the "inner mindscape" and the "outer landscape". Of all of China's ancient painters, he most admired the large-scale landscapes of Fan Kuan. Strictly speaking, Fan Kuan's vivid presence of the forested mountains, valleys, and rivers is barely visible in Chu's work in the 1980s, as he has shifted his focus from the representational to the presentational in the state of 'imaginative analogy" (Xurigera, Cinmaise, issue 159, 1982). The pictorial grains of mountains and trees from Fan Kuan's Travelers amid Mountains and Streams (Fig. 1) could still be faintly perceived in Une belle journée (A Beautiful Day) (Lot 2008), created in 1981. Paying an homage to Fan, Chu transformed the cracked grain as seen in the rocks from ink-wash painting into the texture strokes and washes in his abstract landscape. Visualising a dynamic vigor in a void, Chu's brushstrokes flow around the canvas, carpeting it with currents of paints as lively as streaming rivers and scudding clouds. Lines roll out wildly, leaping onto the surface in tandem with indistinct color blocks and dotted pigments (Fig. 2), reminiscent of Zhang Daqian's Zhang Daqian, Lake Aachen (Fig. 3).

For Chu, 1980s was a decade of free artistic expression. He employed large washes of colour and sweeping, striated brushstrokes with even greater skill while his colour became richer and more brilliant, with larger areas of high-intensity hues. Chu always pays meticulous attention to colour and linear arrangements in his composition. Nothing ever happens by chance, no matter how deliberate the appearance may be. Chu's Une belle journée (A Beautiful Day) takes blue as its basic palette in an imposing and magnificent composition built up from liberal linear layering and tonal juxtaposition. Chu once described his feeling that blue has a greater breadth of feeling and expansiveness than any colour in nature; it is a colour that possesses both poetry and imagination and a deep familiarity. The earliest life that appeared in the world originated in blue-the blue of the oceans. With broad sweeps of variable hues of cobalt blue, Une belle journée (A Beautiful Day) leads us into an immense imaginative universe where the sky immerses with the ocean. The silent and mysterious world at the sea floor and the continuous pulsing of rolling waves appear before our eyes, a shimmering light reflecting from its waves and casting its varied colours throughout that world. Leaving behind the aggravations of the everyday world, we can for a time simply drift through this new world, where Chu Teh-Chun shares on canvas his universe of peaceful but vivid colour, while also demonstrating his mastery in creating limitless depths of space through the use of that colour.

Visual layering develops in the shifts between dense, weighty colours and lighter or more diffuse hues across the canvas, and, as in other works of this period, Une belle journée (A Beautiful Day) demonstrates great subtlety and precision in the rhythms and cadences with which its strands of light and colour are interwoven. Chu's thinking about colour underwent some changes in the 1970s, when he had the opportunity to study the work of Rembrandt, and in the 1980s and later he discovered a variety of different means for producing his desired colour effects-streaks of white cascade across the surface in lively, beautiful brushstrokes that produce waterfall-like forms to represent waves, dancing sunlight, or drifting haze above water, these magnificent effects capture the imagination and draw us into the world of his world. Similar other works from the same period, Chu demonstrated an intricate interpretation of capturing the lights through interwoven brushstrokes in Une belle journée (A Beautiful Day) . This diptych is very unique in the way that Chu, who's renowned for his maneuver of colours, merely used blue as one single dominant palette to create multitudes of layers through variations in shades of blue. This reduced use of colour can be linked to his highly-skilled solid background of ink-wash painting, as traditional painters employs only to create depths and layers in landscape. Chu's dexterous brushwork seems capable of suggesting movement in any direction, left or right, up or down, or leading more deeply into the painting; the light inside the painting seems alive with undulating visual illusion, evoking new and fantastic visual impressions along with the rise and fall of the colours in motions through the canvas. In the West, traditional landscape painting underwent a real transformation around 1840 through the works of J.M.W. Turner. In works such as Calais Pier (Fig. 4), Turner's uninhibited brushwork and subjective colours proclaim the tremendous energy and feeling of nature, while his deconstruction of natural forms opened way for the development of Impressionism and later schools of paintings. By contrast with Turner, whose swirling compositions express the invisible force within nature and the smallness of humanity within its vast reach (Fig. 4), Chu Teh-Chun uses the elements of points, lines, and planes to give the details of the physical world a spiritual dimension, making the scene on the canvas a symbolic one. Broad, sweeping strokes in blue suggest rolling mists and flowing water, while washes with white hint the source of light and suggest the undefined spaces in traditional Chinese landscapes, immersing the viewer in a misty vastness. The work represents the joining of the artist's spiritual vision with the elements of the natural world, and provides a revelation of the philosophy of Chuangtze and his view of a universe in which mankind exists in harmony with nature.

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