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


ZAO WOU-KI (ZHAO WUJI, 1920-2013)
signed in Chinese, signed 'ZAO' (lower right); signed, titled and dated 'ZAO WOU-Ki 4.12.85' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
100 x 81 cm. (39 3/8 x 31 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1985
Private Collection, Asia
This work is referenced in the archive of the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki and will be included in the artist's forthcoming catalogue raisonne prepared by Francoise Marquet and Yann Hendgen (Information provided by Fondation Zao Wou-Ki).
Lin & Keng Gallery, ZAO WOU-KI, Taipei, Taiwan, 2005 (illustrated, p. 101)

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Ada Tsui (徐文君)
Ada Tsui (徐文君)

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Lot Essay

A celestial feast for the eyes, Zao Wou-ki's 04.12.85 is an exquisite example of the artist's foray into a new decade of painting abstract landscapes. Reminiscent of Francois Le Moyne's ceiling mural at the Palace of Versailles in France, the playful use of burnt oranges cascading down into flashes of cool blue tones creates an almost operatic and heavenly quality to the overall composition.

Compared to the more gestural and painterly brushstrokes of the 1960s and 70s, the 1980s saw the rise of fine flowing colour gradations in a traditional Chinese ink style. In 04.12.85, the formal elements reveal Zao Wou-ki's withdrawal from using line as the core structural principle of his paintings to emphasizing colour planes. Against the light tuscany yellow background, Zao Wou-ki creates an illusion of depth by adding dark browns in the foreground and contrasting it against light blues. To the naked eye, these light blue hues retreat into the background, whilst the dark brown shades become more pronounced. Recalling traditional Chinese landscape paintings, which feature dense clouds drifting across soaring peaks, Zao Wou-ki was definitely inspired by his travels to the renowned Yellow Mountain (Huangshan) in China during the 1980s.

Zao Wou-ki himself once commented that "(i)n Chinese painting, solid forms and empty spaces have a rhythm, constantly in motion as each pushes at the other, giving the pictorial space a wonderful balance between lightness and weight. This was an area where I really gained insights from our tradition. If you say my painting is different from most Western painters, it probably has to do with my concepts about how to handle space."

Much like Zhang Daqian's " splashed ink" technique, Zao Wouki deliberately increased the proportion of solvent when mixing his pigments, making it more fluid and ink-like. When applying, the artist would spread and apply the paint as evenly as possible to minimise the visibility of harsh brushstrokes, which created an illusion of colours that flowed and permeated into one another. Like drops of colour falling into clear water, they mix gradually to form new hues.

04.12.85 is an elegant portrayal of Zao Wou-ki's innovation of colour and brushwork during the 1980s, which enabled the artist to produce a uniquely personal style of expression.

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