Don't Let the Flower Goes with the Running Water

Don't Let the Flower Goes with the Running Water
dated ‘2009’, signed in Chinese, signed ‘Zhou Chunya’ and inscribed (lower right)
oil on canvas
279 x 197.8 cm. (109 7/8 x 77 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2009
Timezone 8 Limited, Zhou Chunya, Shanghai, China, 2010 (illustrated, p.549).
Sale room notice
Please note that the correct dimensions of Lot 74 are 279 x 197.8 cm. (109 7/8 x 77 7/8 in.).
拍品編號74的正確尺寸為279 x 197.8 厘米 (109 7/8 x 77 7/8 英寸)。

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Kimmy Lau
Kimmy Lau

Lot Essay

The work of Zhou Chunya embodies a unique and mesmerizing style. In the context of contemporary art, Zhou blends German Expressionism with the essence of traditional Chinese painting. It manifests in the richly symbolic visual language in the Peach Blossom series, which spotlights Zhou as a distinctive artist in contemporary art.

Zhou Chunya’s art is marked by a high degree of autonomy. In the early years of his career, Zhou came across the ontology of painting in German Neo-Expressionism, such as the work of Georg Baselitz (Fig. 1). In Don’t Let the Flowers Goes With the Running Water (Lot 74), the lines and colours resound with the joy of love and the passion for life. The bold and vibrant colours bring an intense visual pleasure to the viewers. Zhou’s innovative artistic language further consolidates his status and influence in the history of contemporary art.

Zhou Chunya stresses the visual complexity of the traces of painting and painting technique in his artworks. The azure sky is not evenly painted; in the flat composition, the fading colour instills the warmth of light into the image. The large amount of dripping details may seem ‘destructive’; yet they enrich the visual content of the image in echoing its subject, illuminating a coherence that resonates with natural vitality. The peach blossoms’ branches, leaves and flowers entice in different guises from varying distances; some convey a sense of anticipation, while others spell a demure charm. The artist’s rhythmic brushstrokes flow like water across the canvas. A closer look at the image reveals the springy green leaves in the distance, and the robust brown branches at close range. As an artist from the oriental culture, Zhou’s lines possess not only a fundamental pictoriality but also the calligraphic dimension of Chinese characters. It is akin to Sanyu’s use of the line in giving form to the subject (Fig. 2). Zhou transforms the ‘calligraphic’ strokes into lively peach blossom branches, delineating the subject of the image. The peach blossom blooms wildly in the image, which Zhou renders in concise, plain brushstrokes and abstract geometrical shapes. This painting style echoes the stream in traditional Chinese art where emphasis is placed on atmospheric charm, and the spirit of the subject is encapsulated in spontaneous brushstrokes (Fig. 3).

In the painting Don’t Let the Flowers Goes With the Running Water, Zhou Chunya has used adventurous contemporary attempt. With the passage of time, part of the blue sky has arisen mottled shapes, which have combined with the peach blossoms. Zhou Chunya tried to imitate the look of ancient Chinese paintings, in which yellowing paper and mottled traces are demonstrating how materials change through time. Distinct from the rigid appreciation of traditional Western paintings, the preference of ancient Chinese paintings are more tolerant. Viewers enjoy to see the mediums change over time because they believe the alteration signify the passing of time and history. Zhou Chunya has transformed the wisdom of Chinese ancient culture into observing the content of contemporaneity.

Unlike most other artists of his time, he devotes his painterly focus to the emotional impact of nature and everyday experience. Zhou Chunya’s paintings do not touch on politics or any current affairs. With the artist’s perception as his starting point, he probes into human emotions and the worldly experience, elevating art to a form of universal and spiritual healing. “The mountains across the pond beckon like a pair of beautiful eyebrows, and the peach blossoms lure like flushed cheeks in the breeze.” Following an unintended trip that Zhou took to the Longquan Mountain in 2005, the peach blossom themed paintings became an important series in his oeuvre. “I love things that are full of vigorous. In spring, I go to see the peach blossoms near Chengdu. The pink across the mountain flows and stirs, and I feel the rhythm of primitive life,” Zhou states. The artist transforms the real-life visual stimulus into an aesthetic expression of spiritual sustenance.

“Having found a paradise away from the brutality of Qin Empire,
I see the peach blossoms herald the arrival of spring.
Don’t let the flowers goes with the running water,
otherwise the fisherman will find his way here.”
- Peach Blossoms at Qingquan Temple, Fang-te Hsieh, the Sothern Song

The peach blossom carries many connotations in traditional Chinese culture. It is a symbol of vitality, love and longevity when it appears as decorative patterns on porcelain ware. The naming of the work Don’t Let the Flowers Goes With the Running Water hints at Zhou Chunya’s idealistic and spiritual pursuit of the ‘paradise’ (Fig. 4). While excitement in real life stems from human desire for money, status and physical pleasure, the spiritual paradise is a sanctuary that Zhou creates for himself and the viewers of his work, one that protects and consoles soul.

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