(ZHAO WUJI, French/Chinese, B. 1920)
signed 'Wou-Ki ZAO' in Chinese & Pinyin (lower centre); signed 'ZAO Wou-Ki' in Pinyin; dated '2.11.71' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
130 x 162 cm. (51 1/8 x 63 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1971
Galerie de France, Paris, France
Private Collection, Le Havre, France
Perrin-Roy?re-Lajeunesse, Versailles, 23 June 1984, Lot 407
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Jean Leymarie, Zao Wou-Ki, Documentation by Françoise Marquet, Hier et Demain Editions, Paris, France and Ediciones Poligrafa, Barcelona, Spain, 1978 (illustrated in black & white, plate 407, p. 299).
Jean Leymarie, Zao Wou-Ki, Rizzoli International Publications, New York, USA, 1979 (illustrated in black & white, plate 407, p. 299).
Jean Leymarie, Zao Wou-Ki, Editions Cercle d'Art, Paris, France and Ediciones Poligrafa, Barcelona, Spain, 1986 (illustrated in black & white, plate 439, p. 339).
Paris, France, Galerie de France, Zao Wou-Ki 1971-1975, 1975.

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Lot Essay

In Chinese's understanding of the objective world, anything not manifested in a physical form is viewed as part of the qi of the natural world. The Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi propounded a worldview in which all things in heaven and earth come into being with of the concentration or dispersal of qi. All things and phenomena are mutually transferable because of the existence of qi. In Zao Wou-ki's 02.11.71 (Lot 05), the interlocking brushstrokes, broad or fine, along with the merge and dissolve of composition, mirrors the fluid flow of qi in life. 02.11.71 exhibits Zao's usual focus in composition. Broad brushstrokes sweep from the lower left corner and push forward towards the confined area of thinner strokes at the centre of the canvas. This work is a rare example that shows the artist's choice of multiple colours. Unlike his predecessors, Zao uses oil to depict the expressive textures of ink-wash, bringing forth a prospect of tranquillity and peace. 02.11.71 conveys an atmosphere of serenity often seen in Chinese landscape paintings. With the clouds and mists gathering and dispersing, we find traces of brushstrokes roaming about on the canvas, creating the equilibrium in layers and motion.

Zao Wou-ki conveys a damp sky and a grey sea, in which we search for an invisible point of convergence on the horizon. A formless force of pressure suddenly causes them to join, shift, and renew; the cycles of life have been stabilized. Zao Wou-ki knows how to capture the shades precisely. The graceful landscape starts to unfold in the moving universe, and gradually, colours are reduced to mere light; and gestures become heavier and heavier until only forms are left...

From the interview "At the Louvre with Zao Wou-ki"

Zao Wou-Ki thinks the difference between Chinese landscapes and Western oil paintings is that oil can't easily achieve the wash effect as ink. He greatly admires the way Song Dynasty painter Mi Fu arranged composition in his works. Mi Fu chose splashing ink instead of the more traditional rigid lines to create an impressionistic landscape of mountains and mists. In Zao's 02.11.71 we see the scenery flickering from a distance. The heavy strokes and colours often seen in his works from the 1960s are diluted and spread out in this picture, adding a nostalgic and elegant touch that evokes the ambiance in ink-wash paintings. Zao Wou-ki returned to ink-wash paintings from 1971 to 1972, spattering ink onto paper in a swift and decisive manner. He admitted, "I don't really like this kind of unpredictability," he nevertheless felt that ink-wash is superb in expressing a sense of rhythm in life. His retreat to ink-wash not only influenced his works made in the same year as 02.11.71, but also embarked a new series of works started in 1980s, the series where Zao constructed a spatial sensation with more fluid strokes. In 02.11.71, instead of creating the chance with splashed ink, Zao meticulously applied layers and layers of paint the way one can see in both Chinese ink paintings and Western oil techniques. The passionate strokes and colours seen in his previous works are hence recalibrated into a serene view of the bright sky, rendering the infinite changes of clouds and mists.

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