CHU WEI-BOR (1929-2018)


signed 'WEIBOR CHU', dated '81', signed and titled in Chinese (lower middle)
79 x 65 cm. (31 1/8 x 25 5/8 in.)
Executed in 1981
one seal of the artist
Liang Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Taipei Fine Art Museum, Chu Wei Bor, A Retrospective, exh. cat., Taipei, Taiwan, 2005 (illustrated, p. 125)
Taipei, Taiwan, Taipei Fine Art Museum, Chu Wei Bor, A Retrospective, March-June 2005.

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Lot Essay


Chu Wei-Bor’s method does not only transcend the limits of twodimensional space, but it also imbues the minimalist composition with the Taoist resonance of existence and non-existence giving birth to each other, while sublimating subdued emotions. Through his constant quest for an expansive and serene spiritual realm, the artist arrived at a unique creative expression that marks the aesthetic ideal of Eastern Neo-Spatialism.

Chu Wei-Bor grew up in Nanjing. After the war, he moved to Taiwan as a solider along with the troops. While he had received no formal art training, he was driven by an immense passion for art and artistic creation. Following exchanges with artists such as Ho Kan and Hsiao Chin, he became a member of the Ton Fan Group in 1958. Amidst the sweeping surges of modern art movements, artists were faced with the inevitable question of how to engage with Western art while carving out their own paths. For Chu Wei-Bor and the other members who were hailed “the Bandits”, it was their mission to explore how to merge new artistic concepts of the time with the spirit
of traditional Chinese culture, as they sought to create a new modern art style embodying the Eastern essence. Chu Wei-Bor chose not to reflect traces of the changing times directly in his work, but instilled his contemplation and internal monologue into a macro aesthetic expression. As Chu Wei-Bor had grown up watching his father— who was a tailor—at work, the experience eventually manifested as creative symbols in his art. The artist’s materials including fabrics, threads and papers, and his techniques such as trimming, patchwork and wrinkling all encapsulate his creative logic—the search for a deeper cultural embodiment and philosophy from the mundane. He cut out pieces of fabric with scissors and picked out the threads to create layers of solid and negative spaces, positions and sizes. The work emanates a strong feeling of self-revelation while retaining a sense of solemnness and solitude, as it expresses an inner purity through an intricate exterior.

Created in 1981, Autumn is from the same series as Eminence which was featured in Christie’s Hong Kong 2019 Spring Auction. This series of works, which feature fabrics as the materials, is an important milestone in Chu Wei-Bor’s exploration of materials. Preserving the original texture and lustre of the materials, he demonstrated incredible craftsmanship with the knife and scissors in the making
of these works; he layered, curled and glued together pieces of fabrics, breaking the confines of the plane. Executed with different techniques, the fabrics reveal varied aesthetic touches like sharp cuts and subtle shimmer. In making Autumn , Chu Wei-Bor used differently styled, leaf-like strips of linen to create a fluttering and rhythmic focal point, which evokes Fan Kuan’s nuanced rendering of the blooming woods in Woods and Waterfall in Autumn . By forsaking colours for the majority of the surface, Chu Wei-Bor simply made use of variations in texture and styling to achieve a sense of tension—one that is both rich and subdued, which emerges through the contrast between large fields and small, intricately styled pieces. By the 1990s, he experimented with new materials like threads and cotton swabs in his work to enrich this visual experience.

Chu Wei-Bor’s art embodies the interaction between concept, material and technique, while the artist drew on Laozi and Zhuangzi’s philosophical ideas for the creative essence of his work. He insisted that thematic expression must exist within a pure realm, so that it becomes a natural and perfect reflection of nature. As it says in Tao Teh Ching by Laozi: “Its greatest beauty seems to offend the eyes… Its largest square doth yet no corner show; A vessel great, it is the slowest made; Loud is its sound, but never word it said; A semblance great, the shadow of a shade.” The ultimate beauty of nature is the manifestation of the “Tao”; it is omnipresent, and yet the great semblance has no form. That is why his work rarely features vibrant colours, but uses “white” or ‘black” as the subject to symbolize the way the “Tao” encompasses everything even though it cannot be seen, and that it represents everything even though it is emptiness. The aesthetic realm of “The heaven and earth has great beauty, but it does not speak” in Zhuangzi symbolizes the ultimate quest for beauty in modern Western art, as well as the starting point for the artist’s search. Chu Wei-Bor discovered the philosophical questions and forms that connected the East and the West for him, which also symbolized his merging of his understanding of life with his pursuit of art.

As an important figure of post-war Asian abstract art, Chu Weibor explored the essence of the beauty of nature; it put him on a par with the Gutai and Dansaekhwa artists from Asia, who transformed the material into the spiritual in art making. Chu Wei-Bor immersed himself in constant reflection and experiments along his artistic path. He transcended the stylistic presentation of traditional painting and sculpture, which opened up greater possibilities in form and a distinctive artistic expression. The aesthetics and language of his work pierces viewer’s rational mind, and awakens the instinctive response of the heart; it inspires in the viewer new aesthetic reflection with its profound philosophical nuances.

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