CHU TEH-CHUN (ZHU DEQUN, French/Chinese, 1920-2014)




signed in Chinese; signed and dated 'CHU TEH-CHUN 85' (lower right); signed in Chinese, signed and dated 'CHU TEH-CHUN 1985.' (on reverse)

oil on canvas

81 x 65 cm. (31 7/8 x 25 5/8 in.)

Painted in 1985

Private Collection, Europe (acquired directly from the artist, and thence by descent to the present owner)
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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Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

In the Alps where Chu Teh-Chun travelled for the first time in 1965, the beginning of the winter opens a sumptuous spectacle between the snow and the rocky cliffs. In Untitled (Lot 27), Chu Teh-Chun captures this ephemeral moment, a silent but vigorous battle. Through the abstract landscape, the viewer can perceive the rocks shivering under the contact of the first snowfalls which will inevitably gum out the last remains of the autumn. The discovery of these landscapes in 1965 and later in 1985 opened in Chu Teh-Chun’s work a snowscape series, considered one of the masterpieces throughout his artistic career. Untitled stands out in the series as it figures the passage from the mineral element that qualifies some of his previous paintings (Fig. 1) to a pure abstract snowscape where the palette of his talent blooms.

Chu Teh-Chun practiced calligraphy every day in his studio and eventually managed to master the subtleness of dots, fury of lines and softness of ink wash (Fig.2) with the western material of oil. The paint on his brush becomes a light tool which bends over his will. Pierre Cabanne described Chu Teh-Chun’s brush as a “seismograph recording the shifts of the mind” and indeed in Untitled, the thick paint renders several components of nature from the mineral to the intangible light. The brush sculpts each element with a precise approach, the browns being textured like sharp rocks and the dazzling white dots united in a transparent mist. A fissure crosses the composition and opens the space. The perspective the artist digs here is built by a careful balance of brightness and darkness, of motion and speed in the painted lines. Below the snowy surface one can still see a beating red glimpsing from the nooks of the cliff, as if the spring was giving off its last rays of light. Maurice Panier noted Chu’s singularity in this approach in February 1960 after his first solo exhibition in Galerie Legendre and he commented, “(his) spatial perception does not belong to classical perspective. It is, so to speak, a multi-dimensional spatial perception. The subtle choice of colours and the arrangement of small squares in the picture create modulations through which light passes. At one and the same time they are space and structure.”

Mrs. Chu Ching-Chao would recall how Chu Teh-Chun would be seized with excitement when the snow started to fall in reminiscence of his emotion of the first sight of it. This excitement and the memory find a right embodiment into these abstract compositions. Following Wang Wei’s precept stated in his treatise on paintings, the artist should “begin from the nature’s essence and complete the work of creation.” The forms of Untitled are unsettled, always on the hedge of transformation. It testifies the grandeur of the nature and renders its supremacy through expressionist shapes, which is also a lesson he learned from his teacher Lin Fengmian, the founding president of Hanghzhou Art College. The lesson he applied all along his life, always pouring our his inspiration from the surrounded nature, from the mountain Baxian when he was teaching in Taiwan to the Yellow Mountains (Fig. 3) he rediscovered in 1983, or the swirling snow recovering the cliffs of the Alps.

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