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De toutes parts

De toutes parts
signed and dated 'CHU TEH-CHUN 95'; signed in Chinese (lower right); signed and dated 'CHU TEH-CHUN 1996' ; titled 'De toutes parts' ; signed in Chinese (on the r everse)
oil on canvas
64.8 x 81 cm. (25 1/2 x 31 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1995-1996
Private Collection, Asia
The authenticity of this artwork has been confirmed by the
Fondation Chu Teh-Chun, Geneva

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Sylvia Cheung
Sylvia Cheung

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Lot Essay

“Colours and lines in my paintings are never the results of accidents. They have come to reach a mutual goal harmoniously, which is to invigorate light and call upon the image and rhythm.” -Chu Teh-Chun

"This is why ever since the 1970s, I have focused all my energy on imparting depth to every painting I create, because without depth, a painting is without life." -Chu Teh-Chun

Chu Teh-Chun arrived in France for the first time in 1955 as a second-generation Chinese modern artist. He is lauded as a visionary that inspires the convergence and exchange between Chinese and Western art scenes. Confronted by the many emerging artists hailing from different schools and disciplines in the mid-20th century, Chu mulled over the mysteries within and painted tirelessly, to arrive at a conclusion, that the 'xieyi' ('free and spontaneous') aesthetic steeped in traditional Chinese ink paintings, poetry and the Taoist philosophy, is actually rooted in the same principles as the Western theoretical perceptions of abstract art conceived in the early 20th century. The Eastern cultural element indoctrinated in his training, and the Chinese -and-Western aesthetic finesse he patiently polished over the years enabled Chu to liberate the compositional poeticism and spirituality in Chinese landscapes on his canvas, with beautifully-integrated Western abstract substance that 'transcends the imagery and fulfills the spirit.' 10 fév 1978 (Lot 301) embodies the character of Chu Teh-Chun's art. It shows the influence of light in his art from the 70s, performing strong theatrical effect. The work is covered in bright red, shimmering yellow and brilliant orange, with two corners of dark brown areas, delivering a strong sense of power. Chu once recalled after visiting the retrospective exhibition of Nicolas de Staël, "isn't this kind of natural and pungent style of painting which I have always longed for?" 10 fév 1978 expresses the freedom, passion and energy pursued by Chu. Chu was deeply inspired by Western traditions with oil painting during his travels in Europe. The most notable influence was the usage of light, which became a key element in his abstraction theory. Between 1965 and 1975, Chu made a number of trips to Brazil and various destinations in Europe. On one, in 1965, he glimpsed the highest peak in the Alps, Mont Blanc, and in 1969, he visited the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, to see the retrospective exhibition on the 300th anniversary of Rembrandt's death. In addition, visits to various museums in Munich, Germany in 1972 would prove to have a great influence on his work. Chu enhances the lighting effect by bright and contrasting colour, together with his fast and decisive brushstrokes with a theatrical lighting effect. Chu once said, 'The colour and lines in my images are never random results, but are put together harmoniously for one common purpose: to activate light sources and call forth images and rhythms.' It becomes clear that colour, lines, and light were important tools that allowed Chu to achieve the harmonious rhythms of his paintings. A study of the contrasts of light and shadow occupied Chu since the '70s, and in fact, they have been a subject of study throughout the history of art, from the chiaroscuro of the Renaissance to the Impressionist focus on depicting the play of light and shadow. Minimalist Dan Flavin initiated a series of intriguing light sculptures in the early 1960s using tube lighting, showing that lighting – though abstract - indeed plays an important role in changing the overall atmosphere of an image. At the crossroad of time and cultural references, Chu Teh-Chun arrived at the ultimate form of chiaroscuro - freed from figuration - a powerful device that suggested a great sense of mystery and a renewed psychological depth. De Toutes Parts (Lot 302) delivers a complex composition; an incandescent chrome yellow light flickering in the darkness of warm brown and buoyant red, coated with warm dots and blocks. The rhythmic paints on the canvas translate perfectly the fragility of this timeless, vibrant flurry. Moreover the modulation of the oil's density and texture adds visual depth to the canvas. In the catalogue of the artist's 2013 Paris retrospective, Pierre Cabanne declared that "a painting by Chu Teh-Chun has neither origin nor completion, but relies on the intensity of its own fatality." In this work, Chu transformed his intuitive and poetic art into an undefined universal time and a fathomless space.The masterful treatment of light in De Toutes Parts recalls the ancient Western craftsmanship of stained glass, a technique consisting of colouring glass cuts, thus creating vast compositions applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches since the Middle Ages. This process allows the passage of daylight through coloured glass, creating a mosaic of the most luminescent colours, a rendering that Chu Teh-Chun skilfully simulated with oil paint. In Western classical art, the stained glass technique and the chiaroscuro effect in painting often give the use of light a supernatural quality, a divine message. This reference echoes the superior forces invoked by the classical Chinese painter when working in communion with nature. Chu's style transforms solid forms into evanescence; the invisible force and elements hidden in nature remain his source of inspiration, and the reflection of light on the canvas testifies to a spirituality of such senses. This work offers many clues on how Chu Teh-Chun nourishes his art both in technique and in spirit with sources of inspiration from Western classical art, resulting in a unique approach rich in both Eastern and Western cultural elements. In 1965, Dr. Paul Gay invited Chu Teh-Chun to a village art fair in the Haute-Savoie region. When he flew over the Alps, the artist had the chance to overlook this grand nature for the first time in his life and was stunned by the magnificent landscape of snow. It was not until later the artist began his series of snowscape from 1985, but he had obviously made the attempt at the beginning of that decade to portray the snowy scenery with gouache on paper in Untitled (Lot 303). The painting delicately introduces us to the artist's famous subsequent snowscape series. The desolate and frosty snowscape is embellished with gracefully moving and floating washes of multiple hues of cyan, balanced with a dot of red and sprinkled with light translucent white strokes, bringing an impression of swirling snow. Here, the medium of gouache on paper provides the artist with full liberty of diluting his colours with water, to create complex textures and layers and bring subtle, yet deliberate, depth to the composition. Chu Teh-Chun is a master at colour composition to create vastness of landscape and depth, beyond the limits of the paper.

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