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CHU TEH-CHUN (ZHU DEQUN, French/Chinese, 1920-2014)
CHU TEH-CHUN (ZHU DEQUN, French/Chinese, 1920-2014)

No. 418

Details
CHU TEH-CHUN (ZHU DEQUN, French/Chinese, 1920-2014)
No. 418
signed in Chinese, signed and dated 'CHU TEH CHUN 70' (lower right); signed in Chinese, signed, dated and titled 'CHU TEH CHUN 1970 No.418' (on the reverse)
oil on paper mounted on canvas
65 x 50 cm. (25 5/8 x 19 5/8 in.)
Painted in 1970
Provenance
Private Collection, France

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Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

Chu Teh-Chun acknowledged that early in his artistic career, he paid special attention to the compositional concepts of the Post-Impressionist Paul C?zanne. Following the French artist's footsteps, he achieved the ideal of letting the landscape yield to the trinity of compositional elements: forms, colors, and light. His mentor at the Hangzhou Academy of Art, Wu Dayu, introduced C?zanne's art to him, which would later become an important inspiration. From Cézanne, Chu Teh-Chun gained a valuable understanding of the composition and the visual elements that compose the objects we see. He continued to move step by step toward the points, lines, and planes obtained by reducing objects to their geometric components - and it is those which structured his abstract paintings of the late '50s and '60s, whose titles are derived from their compositions. His earlier works are largely composed of colored blocks. However, the 1960 work, Untitled (Lot 417), is one of the few early creations containing the circular element. These circular forms are thickly coated with gray, caramel, and grayish brown colors closely joined to black contours; thereby revealing Chu Teh-Chun's exploration of structuralism and the rhythm of hard edge abstractionism. His unique foundation in traditional Chinese culture enabled him to embark on a different path. The vigorous and affirmative vertical brush strokes in his painting not only provided a new means of expression for abstract art, they became Chu's signature artistic expression.

Spiritual Palette
Light and color are the most sensitive painting elements in Chu Teh-Chun's art. When elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, during his acceptance speech he stated: "The colors and contours in my composition are not serendipitous. They work in unison to achieve the same goal: summon light and evoke a sense of image and rhythm." Chu was very particular when it came to the question of colors in his paintings. He once commented: "I never paint at night because under artificial light colors become unnatural."

Pierre Cabanne, the famed French art critic and the author of Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, wrote in his critique: "1956-1957 was the phase of constructional Naturalism in Chu Teh-Chun's creative art. He hadn't directly dealt with colors at this time, but worked on simplifying and summarizing. Under the touch of his brush the lights of Paris became even more subtle and delicate. In his attempt to express these colors, Mr. Chu was well aware of what it was that either kept him away or brought him closer to his creative source. As a result, light became color. Various shades of red, orange, and blue colors, complemented by dark colors, permeated an entire composition. The sporadically large blocks merging with the cold and warm substances created a rich variant of colors." Close observation of the application of color in his oil paintings, No. 418 (Lot 416), Fond Véronèse (420), and Untitled (Lot 419), allows one to understand Chu Teh-Chun's feel for colors, and how he combined colors and brush strokes to convey a sense of rhythm.

Chu Teh-Chun's application of German Expressionism and Rembrandt's use of light, as well as his training in traditional Chinese calligraphy, formed the basis of the swift and decisive brush strokes that distinguish his work. In No. 418, many short and swift brush strokes are heavily covered with bright orange, brownish orange, and other shades of orange. The vigorous calligraphy contours are uninterruptedly painted black. Together, they create a sense of rolling rhythm and suspense that permeates the entire composition. The brush strokes and hues complement each other, allowing colors to drift, swirl, and shift; testimony to Chu Teh-Chun's grand vision of weaving colors to create a visual rhythm, which in turn, laid the foundation for his painting style during the 1970s.

Close observation of the 1975 Untitled (Lot 421) reveals the transition from the No. 418 of 1970 to the Untitled of 1977. The main color tones of 1975's Untitled are black and orange. The vigorous contours of Chinese calligraphy remained unchanged but some of the short and swift brush strokes are replaced by small blocks of color. Thin gouache paint contrasts with slightly thicker oil paint, evidence that Chu Teh-Chun was exploring a subtle method of painting the background.

Chu Teh-Chun toiled mightily to enhance the expression of "light" and "color", which accounts for his constant change of style in the 1970s. However, these changes were all aimed in one direction. The 1977 Untitled reveals the heavy and thick oil paints used in the 1970's composition, No. 418, had disappeared, replaced instead by flowing brush strokes. Pierre Cabanne once commented: "Another distinctive characteristic of Teh-Chun's expression is transparency. The viscous oil paints have been woven into a transparent new look. This translucent quality owes its origins to Chinese Xuan paper, which is not to be matched in the West." Through his flowing and unrestrained brush strokes, combined with careful arrangement of oil paints, Chu Teh-Chun created a unique translucent effect to display the shifting quality of light. Using yellow and white colors as the light source, he released orange, brown, yellow, and green colors as the main color scheme. His swift and decisive brush strokes evolved to become color dots and blocks, and the vigorous calligraphy contours developed into sinuous lines.

The title of Fond Véronèse indicates that Chu Teh-Chun drew his inspiration from the creative works of the prominent Renaissance painter of the 15th century, Paolo Veronese. The composition and colors of the Fond Véronèse are reminiscent of Paolo Veronese's masterpiece, The Wedding at Can. Through the use of color and brush strokes, Chu Teh-Chun was able to express the Italian Renaissance sense of humanity and history. The main colour tone of this composition is blue, which includes sapphire blue, cerulean blue, phthalate blue, ultramarine, navy blue, and deep cobalt blue. Chu Teh-Chun once commented, "Besides immersing myself in the colors of Wang Wei, I am deeply enamored of Li Qing-zhao and Li Houzhu. The brilliance and passion of poetry comprise the jewel-like blue shade in my spiritual palette." To Chu Teh-Chun, "The blue shade is the most vibrant colour in Nature: the limitless sky is blue; the bottomless ocean is blue. However, this vibrant blue has poetic restraint and exceptionally agreeable. Blue is the colour of Man and the entire sentient world. The earliest life originates from blue - the primordial ocean. That's why I preferred blue." The white of titanium-zinc was utilized in the center of Fond Véronèse as the source of light. Turquoise, cadmium yellow, and light rose constitute colour blocks, spots, and contours to create a rhythmic visual effect.

After establishing a direction in the 1970s, the 1980s saw Chu Teh-Chun gain an even firmer grasp over the technical elements of his painting. He attempted to express the ethereal sensation created by floating clouds and drifting mist unique to traditional landscape painting. By utilizing the lighter gouache paint, Chu Teh-Chun was able to create a translucent texture. As a result, in the 1980 work Untitled (Lot 418), pink red, cadmium yellow, and brownish orange, created an effect similar to ink spreading across Xuan paper or the pleasing cascade of colors revealed in refracted light. Thinly applied layers of transparent oils surround more densely applied blocks of color, and light here seems to bend, tautly in some places and more relaxed in others, and darker at some points dark while lighter at others. This results in a fine mutual balance, as in these paintings we seem to gaze at the changing face of the physical world among the floating clouds and drifting mists of the mountains.

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