JOHN WAY (1921-2012)
JOHN WAY (1921-2012)

Longevity and Good Fortune

JOHN WAY (1921-2012)
Longevity and Good Fortune
signed and dated 'John Way 56' (lower left)
oil on canvas
30.7 x 40.4 cm. (42 1/4 x 15 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1956
Private Collection, Massachusetts, USA

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Lot Essay

John Way was one of the best representatives of China's abstract art pioneers. His work is filled with the artistic vocabulary of Western modern art whilst employing the aesthetic qualities of Chinese calligraphy. The following lots from the artist present a selection of works that showcases his artistic development from the 1950s to mid-1960s.

Portrait of Ann Louise Coffin (Lot 203), is a fine example of Way's earliest works. The dazzling red outfit of the heroine is offset by a background of cool colors. He expressed his emotions using deliberately unrealistic colour and rhythmic brush- strokes - those that foreshadow his later development of abstract painting. In the same year, John Way moved to the United States with his family. This later on had become an important turning point in his life and artistic career.

Thanks to his exploration of Abstract Expressionism, Way offers an unprecedented form of depth, infused with the effect of Chinese calligraphy atmospherics. Let us not forget the fact that Way was a young calligrapher who held his first exhibition in Shanghai at the age of 16. Longevity and Good Fortune (Lot 204) is one such work that gives testimony to his early innovations. Soon after Way took calligraphy characters to the next level, he had discovered an even more expressive way - through sheer colours and pure forces - in exploring the universe.

By the early 1960s, John Ways' artistic explorations had completely leaped into the freedom of abstraction. Uncontrolled Vermillion (Lot 207) and Untitled (Lot 208) are both oil on paper, encompassing Way's ingenious aptitude of perfectly fusing elements from the East and West, the calligraphic lines and colours. In some parts, Way painted certain strokes with high transparency and left blank space in the composition. They reveal the artist's inherent influences of Chinese painting traditions.

In Abstraction (Lot 205), the black ink-like paint breaks through the background of contrasting colours, presenting the rhythm and aesthetics of Chinese calligraphy. In Untitled (Lot 206) , Way brushed across the surface with a large paintbrush, allowing the paint to exhibit different forms and textures such as thick, thin, heavy, and light.

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