(ZHU DEQUN, French/Chinese, B. 1920)
No. 69
signed in Chinese; signed 'CHU TEH-CHUN' (lower left); signed in Chinese; signed, dated and titled 'CHU TEH-CHUN 1960. NX 69' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
61 x 100 cm. (24 x 39 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1960
Galerie Henriette Legendre, Paris, France
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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Lot Essay

After his arrival in France in 1955, Chu Teh-Chun spent a lot of time and effort studying lighting, space and lines. In No. 69 (Lot 15), Chu uses powerful brushstrokes on the canvas to create overlapping, rhythmic lines and 'unstoppable movements.' The broader strokes are wild and free, while the smaller strokes are detailed and carefully crafted, producing an incredible visual contrast.
Line is an important element in painting; it composes the forms and also demonstrates the brushwork of an artist. Chu's brushstrokes in this work are rapid and ever-changing, with varied speeds, weights and rhythms. Lively and energetic, Chu's brushwork scales the image like a dancing snake. He once said, "I am from the East, and there are a lot of abstract elements within the core of our culture. For instance, our calligraphy is an abstract art." The major tool used for both Chinese calligraphy and painting is the brush, hence artists naturally combine the techniques in the "six-types" of calligraphy into paintings, so that calligraphy essentially becomes a part of Chinese paintings. In Lu You, Zishushi Scroll and Mi Fu's Shu Su Tie (AD 1088) the brushwork has a natural flow and composition, and while calligraphy was a common form of communication, these works are also exciting pieces of art. Chinese painters embed the spirit of calligraphy into their art, illustrating the unbreakable relationship between calligraphy and painting, distinguishing the Chinese artists' interpretation of line from that of Western artists. Moreover, the fact that Chinese art does not stress the representation of form is also related to calligraphy. By utilizing the 'bone method' to bring liveliness to brushwork, the imagery and spirit becomes the best representation of form. The strength of the character and the likeness of forms are all rooted in brushwork. Therefore, those who are good at painting would be good at writing calligraphy too. This indivisibility between calligraphy and paintings causes Chinese paintings to carry a strong element of calligraphy, in terms of lines and use of ink and to have their own abstract beauty. Though Chinese calligraphy and painting have different names, they essentially mean the same thing -one writes art while the other one draws. Brush and ink is not only about technique, but is also a carrier of emotion and spirit. Chu freely expresses his feelings through his brush and creates powerful imagery.
After the Second World War, many Western expressionists attempted to return to using basic forms and created many works using line as the main theme, where simple lines are arranged to form beautiful compositions. Pierre Soulages treated painting as a metaphorical form of poetry. In Painting, 195 x 130 cm, May 1953, Soulages' thick black crisscrossing lines produces an interesting rhythm, and it is through these lines that the artist expresses his passion for art. Hans Hartung emphasises spontaneous brushstrokes and his work, T 1951-3, focuses on lines and the free movement of form on the canvas. He views lines as traces left by unconscious movements, and through these lines build up a surreal space to express emotion and spirituality. The title of Brice Marden's Cold Mountain series actually comes from the name of the Chinese monk-poet, Hanshan, which literally translates to 'Cold Mountain'. Marden concentrates on the treatment of space; his curvy, calligraphic lines diverging and converging, filling up the whole image, forming a boundary-less, harmonious and calm space for meditation. These artists are more or less influenced by Chinese calligraphy, yet they have only successfully imitated the form. Western artists are not familiar with the roots of Chinese calligraphy since calligraphy may only be a set of mysterious symbols to them. Their brushstrokes lack the "hooks, dots, upward and downward strokes" and momentum, which is the essence of Chinese calligraphy and Chinese abstract art. Lines are the result of unconscious and automated movements and geometrical shapes, which points to the conclusion that lines in Western abstract art focus on the bodily movement of artists and are a form of gestural abstraction. Lines in Eastern art stress the spirituality and inner qualities of writing and drawing and are a form of spiritual abstraction.
Chinese calligraphy and painting focuses not only on the beauty of its forms, but also on the lyrical mood created by the forms. Painting and calligraphy share the same roots. Beyond the fact that they share the same history, they also share a common spirituality. Chu was influenced by his grandfather's love for calligraphy and painting, and often copied calligraphic texts, and was greatly affected by the spirituality of calligraphy. Therefore, even after he entered the Western art world, he was able to maintain his individuality and produce unique abstract art. In No. 69, Chu successfully blends the abstraction and thick contours of Western art with the imagery and spirituality of Eastern art. He skillfully crafts with line and space so that the painting is full of momentum. Through its form and rhythm, this work achieves a perfect balance between rationality and emotional sentiment.

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