(ZHU DEQUN, French/Chinese, B. 1920)
In Memory of Marching on Snowy Mountains
signed in Chinese; signed 'CHU TEH-CHUN' in Pinyin; dated '82' (lower right); inscribed 'ce qui se passe' in French; dated '1981-1982'; signed 'CHU TEH-CHUN' in Pinyin; signed in Chinese (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
129.5 x 194.5 cm. (51 x 76 5/8 in.)
Painted in 1981-1982
Private Collection, Asia
Further details
This work has been proposed for inclusion in the forthcoming Chu Teh-Chun artist catalogue raisonne, being co-edited by Atelier Chu Teh-Chun and Mrs. Chu Ching-Chao.

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Felix Yip
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Lot Essay

Upon his relocation to Paris in the 1950s, Chu Teh-Chun started to ponder his next move from representative depictions of natural forms to a non-figurative, abstract forms. During his time at the Hangzhou Art Academy, Chu was guided by Pan Tianshou's dictum that artists could "develop the new from the old," and he became deeply familiar with the qualities and techniques of the traditional Chinese ink medium. He absorbed the depth of meaning in the traditional medium, its relationships between real and implied forms and spaces, its poetic aspects, and its spirit of man in union with nature. While absorbing and experimenting the Western art forms and theories, Chu Teh-Chun also took up again the ink-wash practice and reappraised the aesthetics of traditional calligraphy and paintings as the foundation for his explorations in abstract art.

Chu made a trip with his family to the Alps in 1975. The painting In Memory of Marching on Snowy Mountains (Lot 2009), created during 1981-1982, can be seen as the recollection for the majestic scenery and also a sentimental reminiscence of the geographic beauty and aesthetic tradition in his motherland, China. Chu attempted to move towards abstraction while depicting the mountains, and used vaguely traceable linear composition to form a lyrical landscape. His perplexing lines and rigorous special structure in In Memory of Marching on Snowy Mountains reveal the inspiration from Chinese traditional painting. This unique piece could be deemed as the precursor of a series of exceptional Snowscape painting and mark a significant milestone in his career.

While exploring the Western media and techniques, Chu Teh-Chun never really turns away from his fondness of traditional paintings. His uninhibited brushstrokes flow on the canvas in multidirectional ways and intensify the visual perplexity to the poised composition through the intertwining lyrical lines, mimicking the undulating surface of the mountains and rivers. Those buoyant lines dominate the dynamics in the left quadrants of the painting and create a lyrical rhythm, gradually intensified from left to right. Chu is adept in wielding his brushstrokes in different calligraphic techniques to create corresponding, floating tempo and whimsical aesthetics as seen in the running script, Autobiography by Huai Su in Tang Dynasty (Fig. 2). His artistic achievement of infusing the Western media with Chinese calligraphy is parallel to the groundbreaking Abstract Expressionists in the United States (Fig. 3) in the twentieth century, yet perhaps Chu advances abstraction even more in the sense of cultural of aesthetical multitude.

If Snowscape Series is the resonant reenactment of Chu Teh-Chun's experience while on his way to Switzerland passing the snow-covered Alps in the daylight after the snowstorm, In Memory of Marching on Snowy Mountains is then a poetic depiction of a night vision of rolling mountains with melting snow on the tip in all quietness, flickering light radiant from the distance. Pr?sence hivernale by Chu in 1986 exemplifies a typical style in Snowscape Series -reductive colour palette limited to almost merely black, gray and white splashes, drips and brushstrokes interwoven together to capture the snowscape in the beautiful morning of wintertime. In Memory of Marching on Snowy Mountains, the artist uses deep emerald green to signify darkness and tranquility. He divides the canvas into four by crisscrossing lines-shallow foreground, mountains in the middle ground while floating v-shaped white mounting over the ridge as a hint to outline the depth and altitude of the mountaintop. Through intriguing dynamic visual dialogues between these layers Chu creates a poetic atmosphere as in Lu You's Excursion to Shanxi Village-"After endless mountains and rivers that leave doubt whether there is a path out, suddenly one encounters the shade of a willow, bright flowers and a lovely village." Chu demonstrates highly skilled expressions in maneuvering the Western-inspired colour fields and lighting. Through his ingenious colour palette and a twirling, infinity perspective, Chu enlivens a breathtaking nocturnal abstract landscape.

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