ZAO WOU-KI (ZHAO WUJI, 1920 - 2013)
ZAO WOU-KI (ZHAO WUJI, 1920 - 2013)
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ZAO WOU-KI (ZHAO WUJI, 1920 - 2013)


ZAO WOU-KI (ZHAO WUJI, 1920 - 2013)
signed in Chinese and signed ‘ZAO’ (lower right); signed, dated, titled and inscribed ‘ZAO Wou-Ki 12.9.00 96 x 104 cm. Ibiza-paris’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
96 x 104 cm. (37 3/4 x 41 in.)
Painted in 2000
Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva
Private collection, France
Thence by descent to the present owners

This work is referenced in the archive of the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki and will be included in the artist's catalogue raisonné prepared by Françoise Marquet and Yann Hendgen (Information provided by Fondation Zao Wou-Ki).

The successful buyer of this work will receive a certificate of authenticity from the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki.
Sale room notice
Please note that lot 223 is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki on 19 September 2014. Please visit for further information.

Brought to you by

Emmanuelle Chan
Emmanuelle Chan Head of 20th century art day sale

Lot Essay

“A space is born of the movement of the brush. It grows, flies and gently expands as my mind roams”
----- Zao Wou-Ki
1980 to 2000 were two decades of triumph and traverse for the world-renowned artist Zao Wou-Ki. In 1981, having lived and worked France for over thirty years, he was invited to present a solo exhibition at the Grand Palais National Galleries in Paris. Several monographic exhibitions were held in other prestigious European institutions including the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Charleroi, Belgium, and the National Museum of History and Art in Luxembourg. In Asia, major solo exhibitions were held in Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China.
Since the 1970s, Zao had found a way to return to the traditional ink painting rooted in Chinese culture. His experience with the absorptive quality of the soft, finely textured Chinese xuan paper (rice paper) and the flowing washes of ink across it produced changes in his oil painting style. He liberated the expressive qualities of colour itself from the bold lines and agitated blocks of paint, favouring the sense of fluidity and boundlessness by deliberately increasing the proportion of solvent when mixing pigments. Closer to 2000, Zao’s style progressed beyond his experiment with dynamism and motion to further transform the pictorial space into a vision of openness and transparent depth. The group of paintings offered in this sale--10.2.81(Lot 221), 29.4.88 (Lot 222) and 12.9.00 (Lot 223) ---embodies Zao’s evolution of style between 1980 and 2000 that would culminate in a group of works with unprecedented creativity and cogitation.
10.2.81, painted in the same year as important show at the Paris Grand Palais, departs from the fierce brushwork he had been known for. Light and colour became his vocabulary, resulting in a sense of ease, together with deeper, more intricate investigations of the painting surface. In 10.2.81, the lines possess a fluid quality and seem to extend beyond the surface of the painting, creating and opening up a boundless sense of space. Against a backdrop of clouds of whites and creams, bands of dark grey and mauves intersect and evoke traditional Chinese landscape painting.
29.4.88 marks another milestone of this stylistic transition. He plays with the colour arrangement, the matching of tones and paint application on the canvas. The palette is richer and more varied, with indigo and orange, violet and green alternating on the same canvas. As his focus shifted entirely toward colour itself, his work from the 1980s alludes to the Color Field Painting from the late 1950s and 1960s and the communicative power it sought after. Nonetheless, unlike his counterparts from New York School who tried to eliminate any painterly or gestural applications, Zao leaves his signature splashes and drops congregating in the centre, heightening the sense of tension where colours meet. As a result, hues grow into each other and merge into an organic unity.
Never content to rest satisfied with the success he achieved in any environment or any stage of his career, Zao Wou-ki always sought to surpass himself and achieve breakthroughs, pushing past achievements or frameworks already established in the past. It should come as no surprise that 12.9.00, painted in 2000, greets the viewer with—yet again—a different energy. It is unbound, harmonious, and ethereal. With large areas of colours as the leading elements, Zao makes use of colours that is even more fluid, a tribute to the beauty of nature such as the billowing waves and translucent mist.
As the noted Swiss author Jacques Chessex wrote, "Here, a kind of unbelievable meditation on the sublimation of things occurs and develops into fullness, as the space within the painting brings forth a delightful, sweet spectacle. While no human figure appears in it, the painting coalesces into a kind of highly concentrated power that connects in our minds with aspects of humanity, with the memories of the artist, and all of his past experiences of both the ordinary and of beauty in its perfection" (Jacques Chessex, Zao Wou-Ki, Galerie Jan Krugier, Genève, 1990).

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