(ZHU DEQUN, French/Chinese, B. 1920)
No. 336
signed in Chinese; signed 'CHU TEH-CHUN' in Pinyin (lower right) signed in Chinese; signed 'CHU TEH-CHUN' in Pinyin; titled 'No. 336'; dated '1972' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
53.5 x 80.5 cm. (21 x 31 5/8 in.)
Painted in 1972
Collection of the artist's family

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Felix Yip
Felix Yip

Lot Essay

In 1972, Chu Teh-Chun painted No. 336 (Lot 2104) as a gift to his mother-in-law. From his acrylic drawing on paper (Fig. 1), it shows the artist's attempt to challenge himself by using reductive palette of dense and dark shades of auburn brown to create light, whimsical dynamics through juxtaposing sinuous flows of lines and lights. Western, scientific theories of color tell us that objects have no color of their own, that the colors we perceive are produced because only part of light's spectrum is reflected back to us, so that color is a creation of light's effects. In No. 336, Chu develops the effect of emerging light from highly transparent contrasting dark and light tones and layering of color. Chu's light here is directional; his straightforward brushstrokes are reflected, broken, and refracted like shafts of light that appear in space and point the way like beams of light in a dark cave, and these ever-changing, glowing reflections allow us to determine and explore the extent of the hidden space we find.

Through the use of running and continuous curves similarly found in Chinese calligraphy, Chu renders the spatial depths and complexity in the centre as the visual anchor point and bestows an undecipherable ambiance through fusing the colours to create contrasting lights and shadows. The Tang poet Bai Juyi wrote in his Notes on Lushan Hall and Garden,"not enough can be written about the variety of open and shaded areas, changing endlessly with the dusk and dawn." In Chu's No. 336, dark-toned colors enfold the upper and lower parts of the composition, with a compressing or contracting effect on space, while brighter tones reach out to the borders of the canvas and open up the surrounding space. But the darker tones have a certain transparency and hints of luminosity, and the artist's grasp of his medium is shown most clearly in the washes of color where the dark and bright areas meet. There, space is both solid and undefined, where we meet both barriers and open spaces, as in nature, among the swirl and flow of various "scenic" elements that come together and separate. Chu's space is unified, never fragmented; it develops in a natural and orderly way in clearly defined layers. Similar to the aesthetics of a Chinese zen garden also seen in Wu Guanzhong's The Lion Grove Garden (Fig. 2), Chu shows high command of abstracting and condensing the forms of nature in order to achieve the concept "close to nature, yet removed from nature."

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