ZAO WOU-KI (ZHAO WUJI, 1920-2013)
ZAO WOU-KI (ZHAO WUJI, 1920-2013)
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, titled, inscribed and dated 'ZAO Wou-Ki 10.2.77. pour Elisabeth et Jaques Vermast amical souvenir de’, signed again in Chinese and signed ‘ZAO’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
88.7 x 115.5 cm. (34 7/8 x 45 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1977
Private collection (acquired directly from the artist)
Thence by descent to the previous owner
Christie's London, 9 February 2007, lot 146
Private collection
Tina Keng Gallery, Taipei
Private collection, Asia
Jean Leymarie, Zao Wou-Ki, Documentation by Francoise Marquet , Hier et Demain Editions, Paris and Ediciones Poligrafa, Barcelona, 1978 (illustrated, plate 462, p. 306).
Tina Keng Gallery, Zao Wou-Ki, exh. cat., Taipei, Tina Keng Gallery, 2010 (illustrated, p. 48-49, 110).
Further details
This work is referenced in the archive of the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki and will be included in the artist's forthcoming catalogue raisonné prepared by Françoise Marquet and Yann Hendgen (Information provided by Fondation Zao Wou-Ki).

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Lot Essay

Zao Wou-Ki’s art embodies the quintessence of Song and Yuan dynasty landscape painters and integrates aspects of Western art, specifically its ability to express colour, light and shadow. It exemplifies a perfect fusion of the combination of Chinese and Western aesthetics. Compared to the brushwork that evokes clashes of power and a violent dynamic in his works from the Hurricane Period between the 1960s and early 1970s, Zao’s paintings reached a major turning point in the mid and late 1970s—after the passing of his second wife, the artist came to reflect on and envisage the relationship between art and life in a new light. He experimented with handling Western oil paints in the style of traditional ink painting, which saw the birth of a new style and led him to another apex of his artistic career. In this evening sale, 10.02.77. is presented as one of Zao’s magnum opus created during this period, as it encapsulates the artist’s skirting between ink and oil painting with a transcendent simplicity.

In his works from this period, Zao demonstrates a more adept command of oil painting techniques, while he blends in a great amount of turpentine to create an ink wash effect on canvas. 10.02.77 features the classic tripathi composition; in the space between the upper and lower sections, the artist applies colours using the horizontal rub and drybrush. In the upper section, an ethereal ‘blank’ is illuminated with large blocks of yellow and green, bringing to mind a serene horizon and the sky. The middle section is a coalescence of the majestic dynamic that marks his works from the Hurricane Period in the 1960s and the misty atmosphere in Chinese landscape painting. Black blocks arrayed from left to right are also inspired by the artist’s attempt of revisiting traditional ink painting. The shade of ink morphs and changes in dense, light, dry and moist brushstrokes that give the painting myriad spatial depth.

In the use of colours, Zao’s works from the mid and late 1970s onwards feature a more vibrant and brighter choice of colours, while the expression of spatial depth and light is emphasized. In 10.02.77, the artist uses bright yellow as the main colour, which is accentuated by glimmers of charred ink, jade green, and elder white. These subtle shifts of colour convey a sense of light’s penetration, as if a divine ray of light was shining through the mountains and forests. Between the void and the concrete, it evokes the light and shadow of a breaking dawn, extending the sense of depth vertically in the composition, as it hints at a vitality about to shine through the painting. In the artist’s words, ‘Abstraction should be something that the viewer can see; that is, the viewer should be able to see where the light source is. What the painter needs to do is to instil a free and organic flow in the composition. He should refrain from shifting the light source from left to right or from top to bottom only to change its position, overlooking whether the painting’s energies are moving freely’ (Victor Ma, “His Paintings Taught Us to See the World; He Taught Me to See Life—In Remembrance of Zao Wou-Ki”, Infinities of Zao Wou-Ki, Taichung, p.21 and p.23).

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