CHU TEH-CHUN (1920-2014)
CHU TEH-CHUN (1920-2014)


CHU TEH-CHUN (1920-2014)
signed in Chinese, signed 'CHU TEH-CHUN' (lower right of each panel)
oil on canvas, triptych
each panel: 81 x 65 cm. (31 7/8 x 25 5/8 in.)
overall: 81 x 195 cm. (32 x 76 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1979 (3)
Private Collection, Europe (acquired directly from the artist thence by descent to the present owner)
The work is accompanied by the certificate of authenticity issued by Chu Teh-Chun on 25 March 2006.

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Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

Since the 1980s, Chu Teh-Chun began to use the Chinese calligraphy brush to layer translucent ink washes onto his paintings. This effect is an inventive expression for the artist to explore the sense of space in his works. Painted in 1979, Composition (Lot 62) showcases Chu's exceptional technique in traversing large scale wet ink washes and sweeping dry brushworks. Compared to his iconic works ten years prior, the increasing areas of high-saturation colours indicate a much more nimble and vigorous execution. This change preluded a turning point in his subsequent works. Chu Teh-Chun was not bounded by conventional forms in his abstract landscape paintings on the canvas: dramatic light and shadow were used to heighten the emotional power of the piece. The background in dark brown tones are starkly contrasted with flecks of vibrant colours such as flaming red, white, citrus and ochre yellow. Such powerful compositional elements energise the picture with a phenomenal life force.
The triptych is steeped in the atmosphere and mystery of Baroque painting (Fig. 1). The cascading light and shadow that forms the multitudes of morphing tones is akin to tenebrism. The directional light source that intersects the entire space has a guiding effect - it leads the gaze of the viewer through an undulating path. The spirituality conveyed through the rippling shower of light and the triptych format, are reminiscent of the sacred air of medieval altarpieces.
Amongst Chu Teh-Chun's prolific artistic output, this triptych composition is a truly singular piece. The sense of motion that is being initiated is something that cannot be embodied on a single panel. Each of the three canvases contains a different set of cadence and rhythm that is composed horizontally to weave a beautiful piece of music. The triptych is also an iconic format that was employed by the British Post-War artist Francis Bacon. This format gives the paintings a sense of an imposing field that detaches itself from the traditional temporal and sequential arrangement of the triptych (Fig. 2). The viewer can study these panels in a free-flowing and non-sequential way. The panels converse and echo with each other, yet the individual panel is irreplaceable and unique. Composition captures scenes like a camera lens - this series of ever-moving spaces and imageries meticulously form a composition that is perpetually in a state of equilibrium.
In this painting, Chu Teh-Chun fully demonstrates the power that resides in the colour black - deep within the profound darkness, light is liberated. Similar to the abstract works of the French Post-War artist Pierre Soulages, they both used black as a means to release colours (Fig. 3). Similarly, Soulages' choice of black is stemmed from his obsession with light. Compared to the broad brushstrokes of the French painter, Chu's abstraction has an additional sense of finesse and alacrity. By using calligraphic lines, the artist traced the rhythmic path of the light. Chu Teh-Chun tirelessly developed the infinite possibilities of Chinese ink painting techniques used in a Western medium. This unique amalgamation of Eastern calligraphy in Western oil painting is a significant contribution that sets him apart from many of the Western abstract artists of his time.

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