CHU TEH-CHUN (b. 1920)
signed in Chinese; signed, dated and titled 'CHU TEH-CHUN 1995 élévation' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
194.5 x 130 cm. (76 9/16 x 51 3/16 in.)
Painted in 1995
Private Collection, Asia

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Lot Essay

Artist Chu Teh-Chun draws upon the wonders of nature for new artistic inspirations to depict his impression of Mother Nature. The creative, well thought journey is completed in his unique artistic vocabulary, following a continuous process of reflection. Transcending the boundaries of form, Chu's abstract landscape comes alive in the viewer's mind as a figurative vista of splendor and greatness.

In élévation (Lot 57), Chu achieves sophisticated oil colouring at one go with a large brush, punctuating the essence of oil paintings reminiscent of ink art with consummate brush movement, empowering his work with awe-inspiring magnificence. Large washes of blackish-brown oils form a downpour from the upper-left of the canvas. Wielding brush with a bold and fluent application, Chu accomplishes lines after lines of various widths to illustrate the characteristics of rocks in nature. The cracks produced by the overlapping ink-brown colour blocks resemble the crevices on the face of a rocky wall, emitting beams of murky light. The image is reminiscent of Swiss Mountains (fig. 1) by Zhang Daqian, who splashed gradations of ink in a skillful manner. Chu outlined the contours of the quaint mountains and rocks, and delineated mist-enshrouded landscape with simplistic lines. The mood and ambience of the past are fully-realised in this masterpiece.

Leveraging the wrist strength of a master calligrapher, Chu plays magic with the mirage of free, vertical lines, making them dance and swoosh up and down, creating mesmerising and complex visual dimensions in the structural layout. On the upper-right, both heavy and light oil colours engage in an alternating rhythmic tempo of vivace and adagio, where the spaces are left in void, or hued in navy blue to create the misty look of the haloing of coloured ink that characterises traditional paintings. The white haze and blue mist travel in between to lighten the weight of the mountains with a delightful feel of spaciousness.

In the center of the piece, the reddish orange colour acts as flaming hot lava that explodes from the mountains and rocks, its force commanding and unstoppable. Such visually powerful work is akin to The Eruption of Vesuvius (fig. 2) by Pierre Jacques, which captures the terrifying moment of the volcanic eruption with an equally strong contrastive technique of light and dark. The fusion of red and yellow, similar to snarling tongues of fire, are menacing with deadly heat. The artist's expert command of transitioning colours, and use of powerful brushwork illustrates the flowing energies in nature. The volcanic eruption, the lava flows, and the gradually cooling and extinguished lava pooling in the foreground are a process of materialistic ?l?vation and rebirth, attesting to the sheer force of nature.

Chu allows the outpour of thoughts and materials to encounter and interlock in élévation through his signature artistic language, immortalising the powerful grace of nature in an abstract painting and viewer's imagination. The bursting lava in the work symbolises Chu's soulful expressiveness and emotional outpour; it also mirrors the all-consuming sentiments etched in Chu's heart.

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