LE 8.12.1976

LE 8.12.1976
signed in Chinese, signed ‘CHU TEH-CHUN’ (lower right); signed in Chinese, signed ‘CHU TEH-CHUN’, titled and dated ‘le 8.12.1976.’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
161.7 x 126.8 cm. (63 5/8 x 49 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1976
Acquired directly from the artist
The authenticity of the artwork has been confirmed by Fondation Chu Teh-Chun, Geneva. A certificate of authenticity can be requested by the successful buyer.
H. Juin, Le Musée de Poche, Chu Teh-Chun, Paris, 1979 (illustrated, p. 52) (Please note that the execution year was mistakenly listed as 1977; the correct year should be 1976).

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Lot Essay

“Neither line nor colour can embody a landscape; they merely reveal its intrinsic strength. The painter frees them from the abounding imagination of the cosmos and, in so doing, marries the body with the mind.” - Pierre Cabanne in Chu Teh-Chun

Chu Teh-Chun was a master of using his profound skills in calligraphy and his magnificent poeticism, which he inherited from the aesthetics of Zhuangzi’s poetry, to reconstruct landscape imagery in his abstract oil paintings. Le 8.12.1976 perfectly captures the artist’s ability to equally embody western techniques of painting through the use of dramatic lighting and textured surface on the one hand, while exposing his soul and inner depth through calligraphic movement, typical of traditional Chinese painting on the other hand.

In Le 8.12.1976 , the quick decisive brushwork seems to have been completed in a single motion: as Chu's brushstrokes float down, flow, and turn around a visual frenetic rhythm is generated through the interweaving of colours. Arrays of greens and blues sweep the compositions in two opposite movements, vertical and horizontal. The composition’s structure implies a grand sense of depth: the horizontal dark blue lines in the foreground lead the viewer to a vertical background reminiscent of steep mountains, all lines meeting in a centre where the energy of the brushstrokes concentrate. Two bright yellow focal points in the lower left and upper right parts illuminate the composition like two sources of light. In the 1970s the artist acquires a better ease with the oil medium and starts diluting his colours into fluid washes applied on the canvas with large Chinese brushes in the manner of the ink painting. The light inside the painting seems alive with the brushwork’s vibration, expanding and evolving into new and fantastic visual impressions along with the rise and fall of the colours in their wavelike motion through the canvas.

Le 8.12.1976 references Baroque chiaroscuro techniques, newly acquired by the artist. In the 1950s, Lucio Fontana had reinforced the need for a return to Baroque techniques through his ‘Baroque’ series. He played with material, texture and colour to highlight heavy contrast, movement and dynamism reminiscent of the notion of the baroque. Similarly, in most the 1970s compositions, Chu favoured warm colours to express depth as a direct reference to Rembrandt. However, a number of his paintings throughout his career employ green and blue hues to translate a more literal vision of nature. Such works from the 1970s rarely appear on the market, and Le 8.12.1976 offers an incredibly crisp and confident composition in blue, green and yellow reminiscent of ocean depths struck by light. By the 1970 Chu Teh-Chun had been living in France for 15 years, mastering abstraction with a unique, intuitive approach which encompasses all at once the thorough studies of Cézanne, the spirited impetus of Nicolas de Staël, and the philosophy of Song Dynasty landscape painting. A visit at the 300-year retrospective exhibition of Rembrandt at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in 1969 struck the Chinese artist with a new source of inspiration on his quest into the abstract language. Through the Dutch painter, Chu discovered the masterful use of light that the Renaissance artists invented as chiaroscuro, one of the pillars of European art history since the sixteenth century. After observing Rembrandt masterpieces for hours, Chu decided to incorporate the technique of dramatic contrasts between light and dark into his own compositions, utilizing this Western artistic milestone to enrich his ancestral Eastern heritage. Chinese classical painting relies solely on the ink line to translate the inner essence of one self and rejects the use of colour and representation of light and shadows as a distraction to the purpose of capturing one’s energy. On the contrary light is highly conceptualized in European religious painting as the expression of the divine spirit. For Chu, a native Chinese artist, there was no difference between Western landscape and abstract paintings; through intuitive perception, he was able to combine them.

In this work, abstract painting and the aesthetics of calligraphy reach a pinnacle of amalgamation that not only transcends the barriers of the East and the West, but also surpass time. His style had gone through several phases, from early landscapes influenced by Cézanne, to the abstract transformation inspired by Nicolas de Staël, then to the vivid application of calligraphy brushstrokes on canvas. Chu gradually overcame the challenges of form and style while striving for spiritual expression, upon which a brand new dimension of Chinese painting began to unfold. On 17th December 1997, Chu Teh-Chun was elected as a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, becoming the first Chinese member of this prominent French art institution. In 2001, he was awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French Minister of Education. A travelling retrospective exhibition of the artist’s work is in preparation by the Fondation Chu Teh-Chun, due in 2020-2021.

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