(ZHU DEQUN, French/Chinese, B. 1920)
No. 113
signed, titled and dated 'CHU TEH-CHUN NX 113 1962'; signed in Chinese (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
65 x 91.5 cm. (25 9/16 x 36 in.)
Painted in 1962
Private Collection, Europe

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Lot Essay

When Chu started his exploration of art in Paris, he spent two-thirds of his time drawing 'things with forms' and the remainder on those without. The inspiration for his shift from the figurative to the abstract came in the spring of 1956 after he visited the Nicolas de Stael retrospective at the Musee d'Art Moderne National, Paris. He suddenly realised the 'invisible hand' confining his creativity was actually the 'form', and that it was only through forgetting 'form' that the meaning of a work could be expressed to the fullest. This realisation led Chu towards a bold and vigorous artistic style.
Another driving force in Chu's shift in style was his exploration of the visionary works of Paul Cezanne, which he first came to study under Wu Dayu at the Hangzhou National College of Art. By examining the concepts behind the visual elements in Cezanne's scenes, Chu decoded the presentation of underlying natural landscape and still objects, gradually moving towards the geometrical concepts of point, line and plane.
Chu once summarised the essence of Chinese landscape painting in one word: ease. He meant ease in both technique and the ideal mindset of the artist. No. 113 (Lot 12), created in 1962, bears witness to Chu's departure from Nicolas de Stael's constructively thick vertical and horizontal lines and colour blocks. Small blocks, appearing in his works since 1957, seamlessly dissolve into the piece, in which blue, white and grey oil paints interweave with inky-black lines. Quick and powerfully wide strokes signify a change from the figurative to the metaphysical. The newly apparant 'ease' absent from Chu's early works, combined with the application of thick colours and powerful strokes, convey his search for the free and vigorous. Chu also advances his techniques in abstractionism in a state of ease. He applies lines not to sketch natural scenery like mountain ranges, stones, branches and leaves, but to bring lyrical grooves into the work, echoing the concept of 'aesthetic lines bringing life' put forward by another famous Chinese painter, Lin Fengmian. While the powerful, inky-black lines resembling those in Chinese calligraphy play a leading role in the piece, it is through their combination with royal blue and Prussian blue strokes that the infinite power of nature is unveiled. Chu displays his ambition in exploring the possibilities of Chinese calligraphy using Western oil paints. The powerful, thick strokes and intense thin lines bring out the deep oriental spirit in Chinese calligraphy. The turns, hooks and ticks echo the cursive scripts of Siu Yue back in the Song Dynasty. The white paints permeate the gaps in lines like dim lights seeping through broken rock, balancing the deep, thick oil colours.

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