“As Fan Kuan once said, instead of learning from man, I should learn directly from nature. Instead of learning from nature, I should learn from my heart. Learning from the heart’ means to focus on the artist, which is ideologically similar to Abstraction – Chinese artists merely neglected to coin the style explicitly as ‘Abstract’. Taking nature and fusing it with the artist’s heart or ideas is to show
the artist’s imagination, learning, and personality on the canvas. In that way, Chinese paintings in fact converge with Abstract paintings.” – Chu Teh-Chun
Under the rough and wild strokes of subdued sienna, splashes of vibrant colours are vying to burst out, as a ray of searing white rises above all in the distance and triumphs over the muted tones on the rest of the canvas, illuminating the entire scene – in this painting, Chu Teh-Chun expertly expresses himself through gestural brushstrokes and uses a pure abstract vocabulary to convey a message of passion - even as one exists in darkness, hope must not be lost.
Hope is Born was completed in the early 1990s, and Chu chose to use an extra-large format to create a starkly contrasting two-dimensional landscape, while continuing his lifelong exploration into his favourite theme – the expression of light. The skilful composition and careful application of paint layers also reveal Chu’s absolute mastery over painting techniques when he was at the top of his game.
At the time, Chu had recently moved into a larger studio in the Parisian countryside by the banks of the Seine, which gave him the space needed to produce large-format works. He chose to paint with broad brushes, which are softer and have greater surface area, so his could realise deeper layers, gradients, and morphing compositions. Hope is Born features a dramatic show of lights with fluid and rich strokes, making it a clear masterpiece amongst the artist’s large format works from this era.
In the year when this painting was finished, Chu and his wife Tung Ching-Chao visited Venice where they saw the works of Venetian masters Tintoretto, Titan, and Veronese. The use of light, perspective, and overall grandeur of these late-Renaissance painters further inspired Chu’s creativity, and Hope is Born was born out of this context as the artist learned from the best and made it his own. The juxtaposition between light and dark that was commonly seen in Renaissance masterpieces is filtered through an abstractionist lens, and the beams of light and shadows crisscross and zigzag in a complementary dance of colours, despite being diametrically opposed.
With the outbreak of the Gulf War in the early 1990s, Chu was deeply affected by contemporary geopolitics (much like the traditional Chinese ideal of a gentleman scholar’s concern for the world). He expressed his social commentary through painting and hoped for peace through his art. In Hope is Born, which was shown at an apocalypse-themed exhibition in Saint Germain, one sees the artist’s impassioned retort against violence and politicking. Notably, Hope is Born was created in the same year as Chu’s Light Beyond the Plagues, which also showcases his wish for the times: a ray of light emerges from a grey expanse to represent hope, explicitly highlighting the theme of the painting. By this time, Chu was already known for his breakthrough combination of eastern and western styles, so as an influential international figure he took it upon himself to remark on the times and speak out for peace in the way he knew best, doing what he could to address the anxiety and worry that was all-too-prevalent then. As shown in Hope is Born, temporary darkness cannot cloud over the vibrancy of our world; hope will ultimately rise up, and the dawn will inevitably follow the night. The measured used of rich colours in this piece, supplemented by depth, dimensionality, and dynamic brushstrokes, combine to make this painting a moving and meaningful record of Chu’s historic artistic life.