WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)
WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)
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WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)

Tokyo in the Night

WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)
Tokyo in the Night
signed and dated in Chinese (lower left)
oil on canvas
40.5 x 31.5 cm. (16 x 12 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1990
Private collection
Anon. Sale, Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 24 October 2005, lot 791
Private collection, Asia
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Monograph on Wu Guanzhong, Han Mo Xuan, No. 6, Hong Kong, 1990 (illustrated, p. 141).
Wu Guanzhong, exh. cat., Art News Publishing, Tokyo, Japan, 1992 (illustrated, plate 41).
Fang Di (ed.), Wu Guanzhong’s Personal Selection of Paintings, The Oriental Press & A & U Publication, Beijing & Hong Kong, 1992 (illustrated, p. 69).
Wu Guanzhong, Wu Guanzhong, A Selection of 128 Fine Works, L’Atelier Productions Pte Ltd, Singapore, 1996 (illustrated, plate 72, p. 155).
Wu Guanzhong, Guangxi Fine Arts Publishing House, Guangxi, China, 1999 (illustrated, p. 180).
Wu Guanzhong’s Art in 1999, exh. cat., Guangxi Fine Arts Publishing House, Guangxi, China, 1999 (illustrated, p. 200).
People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, Wu Guanzhong - Connoisseurs’ Choice I, China, 2003 (illustrated, plate 61, p. 145).
Wu Guanzhong, The Art of Wu Guanzhong: Vol. III – Paris Again, Guangxi Fine Arts Publishing House, Guangxi, China, 2003 (illustrated, p. 70).
Joint Publishing Ltd., The Landscape of Life Vol. III: Wu Guanzhong Album in Art, Beijing, China, 2003 (illustrated, p.5).
Shui Tianzhong & Wang Hua (ed.), The Complete Works of Wu Guanzhong Vol III, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, Changsha, China, 2007 (illustrated, p. 274).
Hong Kong International Art Fair, Art HK 11, Hong Kong, 2011 (illustrated, p. 256).
Wu Guanzhong Exhibition, Xinhua New Agency, Xinhua Academy of Calligraphy and Painting, Mitsukoshi Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, November 1992.

Brought to you by

Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡)

Lot Essay

In the early 1990s, Wu Guanzhong was invited to paint from life and hold exhibitions in France, Japan, the UK, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and other regions. The impact of his encounters with different cultures, and the varieties of regional landscapes he saw, made Wu aware of a much broader set of human circumstances. It also stimulated him to delve even more deeply into the beauty of form and the beauty of abstraction. Wu frames and composes the scene of Tokyo Night on his canvas in an almost photographic manner. The city's avenues flow like rivers, snaking and uneven; the buildings rise like sheer mountains, proud and lofty. Wu draws out his brushstrokes either horizontally or vertically in ways that blur the clear, concrete shapes of the buildings, but still fully project the sense of a towering forest of buildings in an urban setting. Following World War II, Japan experienced a tremendous 30-year economic boom, from the 1960s to the '80s, that produced the night view of a prosperous Tokyo seen by the artist. The artist's impressionistic, abstract view transforms the city into a colorful, dazzling urban landscape even as it injects it with an extra degree of tranquility.

The enchanting evening scene in Tokyo Night is built around a palette primarily of black. Deep black suggests feelings of power, mystery and the unknown. As in Pierre Soulages, where we see shifting lifts within the black darkness, Wu's black background sets off the vague glow of some areas and the real feel of bright city lights in others. The nighttime forms of buildings themselves should not be either silver or light-coloured; instead, it's the dazzling and prosperous metropolis and the neon lights everywhere that complete this grand and colourful scene.

I love black, strong black, black painted so it's really strong. I've encountered criticism for my black paintings, but it hasn't for a second reduced my feeling for that colour. Black has come to symbolize death, to be a sign of mourning, precisely because it is ultimate end of visual stimulation. As I moved from figurative painting to abstraction, there seemed to be a parallel movement from paintings full of color to mixtures of black and white. —Wu Guanzhong, The Three Colours of the Pure Land: Grey, White, and Black

Wu Guanzhong loved to lay down paint with a flat brush in even, regular strokes to capture the regular forms and the textures of certain objects — as true of the trees and brick walls of his early paintings as the tall buildings here. As with the brush techniques of Zhang Daqian (fig. 2), the logic that always fits Wu's brushwork for a particular application adds tremendous appeal. It's no wonder that Michael Sullivan, in Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China, said, 'Indeed, he moves between Chinese and Western painting methods more easily than other modern Chinese painters.'

Wu Guanzhong moved freely between the freehand lyricism of the East and the Abstract Expression of the West. Zhu Dequn, another Chinese abstract artist counted among 'the Three Musketeers of France,' created a series of snow scenes in the mid-1980s. Rather than realistic depictions of the scenes he experienced, Zhu merged an impressionistic presentation with abstraction in a highly calligraphic style. Wu Guanzhong similarly transcends the objective 'forms' of realistic painting, fusing his own impressionistic style with abstraction by means of an Eastern vocabulary. The result shows him displaying his philosophy of 'scenic painting of true feeling' at a new and higher level.

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