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Chunya Zhou (b. 1955)
ZHOU CHUNYA (Chinese, B. 1955)

Rock Series: Lying Nude

Details
ZHOU CHUNYA (Chinese, B. 1955)
Rock Series: Lying Nude
dated '1992.4'; signed in Chinese (lower right)
oil on canvas
148.5 x 118.5 cm. (58 1/2 x 46 5/8 in.)
Painted in 1992
1
Literature
Timezone 8 Limited, Zhou Chunya, Shanghai, China, 2010 (illustrated, p. 151).
Exhibited
Shanghai, China, Shanghai Art Museum, 1971-2010 Zhou Chunya Retrospective, 2010.

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Lot Essay

Unlike some artists who discard restraint for novelty, I am different. The subjects I choose, the techniques and colours I use are very ambiguous. I am a person who thinks a lot, reviews a lot before I take the next step. I have been deeply influenced by the Chinese tradition, which I never will be rid of whenever I am.
Zhou Chunya
After graduating from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in 1982, Zhou Chunya followed a similar trajectory as other artists of his generation in the new wave art movement, gravitating away from China's academic realism and instead exploring more personal modes of expression. But while other artists focused on their changing environment, Zhou, while studying at the Kassel Academy in Germany, immersed himself in the study of Impressionism, Cubism and Expressionism, a course of study that led him to his own highly distinct brand of Neo-Expressionism.
Artists of the Neo-Expressionist, or "Junge Wild" ("wild youth") movement, sought to undermine established authority with the aim of freeing their art from any restrictive constraints by painting with intense colors and with quick, broad brushstrokes. These abstract and sensual paintings reflected the subjective feelings of the artists and themes were often portrayed in a complex and individualistic manner. His own exposure to the "Junge Wild" ethos led Zhou to free himself from the repressive limitations of his academic training, fundamentally altering his own painting practice.
Upon his return to China in 1989, Zhou encountered a newfound closeness towards his country. He became fixated on Chinese literati painting, and he recalls, "Back in China, I systematically commenced studying traditional Chinese painting, and I began to utilize Chinese element in my work. Unlike some artists who discard restraint for novelty, I am different. The subjects I choose, the techniques and colors I use are very ambiguous. I am a person who thinks a lot, reviews a lot before I take the next step. I have been deeply influenced by the Chinese tradition, which I never will be rid of whenever I am. Even though Western art dominates my painting style, I would say I am a Chinese painter anywhere I go, because I maintain a Chinese lifestyle within myself." From then on, Zhou has sought to combine traditional Chinese motifs with an emotive and highly personal expressionism derived from the experiences and reflections of daily life as inspiration.
In A Lying Woman, Black Stone (Lot 34), the experimental and deliberately awkward composition of the nude figure, central in the painting, draws the viewer in to visually engage a sense of detachment and uncertainty. The curious shape of the rock, at once sculptural and compact, and its composition with the nude figure painted with heaping interspersing brushstrokes, brings an intense play of texture, a departure from the conventional flatness of literati paintings, yet evokes an exciting, sentimental visual experience rarely found in traditional Chinese painting. Zhou has commented on the role of the stone in Chinese art as he stated, "I have often wondered why stones are in so many traditional Chinese paintings. Perhaps the stone is a symbol of nature, their staunch solidity and texture having made them the emblem of the artistic spirit and technical method."
The Chinese interest in collecting rocks for meditative or aesthetic purposes has been traced to the Han dynasty where it has since been an important object of Chinese material culture and aesthetic connoisseurship. Aptly named as "Scholar Rocks," these portable, natural stones were appreciated by Chinese literati for their dramatic forms, intricate spaces, movements, contrasting colors, or resemblance to sacred mountains (Fig. 1). As interpreted in Chinese literati painting, while ink paintings were not faithful representations of a landscape, they were instead a kind of portable microcosm representation of nature on a grand scale meant to instead provide an occasion for meditative escapism where one can enjoy the projection into an imagined nature (Fig. 2). For Zhou, painting a landscape had a similar spiritual action as taking the time to identify a scholar's rock as both allowed the artist to explore nature and to engage with it for contemplation and reflection. As he has stated, "I was working on the literati landscapes when I created the Rock series. I didn't, however, perceive them in the way like the Chinese traditional painters. That is, I afford no attempt to scrutinize their material properties and patterns and shapes but to search, according to my own purpose of expression, for those features that all together estrange and amaze me. I have spent much time on texture and the sense of texture, as I tried, almost like an obsessive, to capture and ponder over the deep-root factors that affect our visual perception of the rocks. Their augmentation and magnification are in essence the form; their visualization is in essence the content - I don't have to explain it further. These rocks are more astounding and startling than those that are viewed and interpreted through concepts and methods."

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