Forming part of a pantheon of great homages created by Zao Wou Ki, Hommage à Chillida is one of the most compelling paintings by the artist produced in the last years his life. A monumental canvas spanning nearly 2 metres, Hommage à Chillida is among the largest of the artist's entire Hommage series. The astonishingly complex layers of colour mesmerize the eye, the horizon line indiscernibly rendered so that washed lilac sky appears to melt into the lavender sea. A painterly impression of the epic landscape at the foot of Mount Igeldo, Hommage à E. Chillida captures the windswept feeling of standing at the crest of the bay in San Sebastián, where Eduardo Chillida chose to place his seminal El Peine del Viento.
Set against a sweeping abstracted seascape, Zao's fluid brush strokes depict the steely silhouettes of El Peine del Viento with startling realism. Framed by the dark reflections of charred Basque cliffs, the fingers of El Peine del Viento articulate themselves against the landscape, extending over the sea, grasping at the sky. An emotional reflection upon the landscape, Zao's gestural sweeps of colour capture the ambient surroundings, striving toward an ambient and dreamlike atmospheric rendering of the. The misty air and eddying waters comprise almost the entirety of the canvas, a nod to Chillida's own interest in paying tribute to landscape which so inspired him. Here, the essence of the sea air becomes more important than what is tangible and confirmable: sea and sky, earth and air, light and void, reflecting Chillida's interest in open and free spatial relationships of earth and great expanses of space.
As a young man, Zao showed an avid and early affinity with painting, finding inspiration beyond his father's collection of Medieval Chinese art, in the reproductions of Cézanne, Renoir and Matisse. Making a striking contribution to the École de Paris with his own unique aesthetic of Lyrical Abstraction, Zao's life work traverses the line between traditional Chinese painting techniques and Western-inspired abstract compositions. In 1948, his love affair with French culture brought him to Paris, where the young artist pursued painting, continuing in the legacy of the Impressionist masters. Informed by the Chinese literati principle of emotional self-referencing, for Zao, the highest praise he felt one could bestow upon an artist was in acknowledging their inspiration in his work.
Representing the most poignant works of his career, other paintings from the series have included Hommage à André Malraux, 1976, Hakone Open Air Museum, Hommage à Monet, 1991, and two Hommages à Henri Matisse, 1986 and 1993. The Hommage paintings are painters' pictures, in which the very essence of each master is distilled into a loving tribute. Each of the series of fifteen canvases is a beautifully rendered and deeply felt tribute to the landmarks of impressionism, as well as contemporary icons of politics and culture. Each of the paintings is distinguished by its strong colour contrasts, and impassioned brushwork. A poetic vision, Hommage à Chillida is a tribute to an artist's irrepressible urge to acknowledge the greatness of those who inspired him whilst leaving his own significant legacy.