‘Besides immersing myself in the colours of Wang Wei, I am deeply enamored of Li Qing-zhao and Li Houzhu. The brilliance and passion of poetry comprise the jewel-like blue shade in my spiritual palette.’
- Chu Teh-Chun
‘The blue shade is the most vibrant colour in Nature: the limitless sky is blue; the bottomless ocean is blue. However, this vibrant blue has poetic restraint and exceptionally agreeable. Blue is the colour of Man and the entire sentient world. The earliest life originates from blue – the primordial ocean. That’s why he (Chu Teh-Chun) preferred blue.’
Respectively painted in 1962, 1987 and 1979, No. 134 (Lot 423), Voiles Diaphanes (Lot 424), and 26.4.1979 (Lot 425) not only illustrated the stylistic evolution of Chu in the 1960s to 1980s, but also fully embodied his favourite colour hue - blue.
Colour of cyanine in Chinese painting can be traced back to Tang dynasty. Painters in Tang and Song dynasties produced different shades of cyanine colour by natural mineral - malachite, azurite and turquoise. Taking Wang Wei (701- 761), who has been mentioned by Chu, as example, the stone and mountain are coloured by green in Wangchuan Villa (fig. 1), rendering a sense of refinement. Besides, the use of green colour can be found in Qiu Ying’s Wang Chuan's Residence after the Painting Style and Poetry of Wang Wei (fig. 2). What caught Chu’s attention is not only the green colour, but also the ‘form’ he found in the overlapping hills and mountains, from which, it is believed that how Chu analyzes the relationship between ‘form’ and ‘colour’. It is also the ‘form’ and ‘colour’ in the works by Nicholas de Staël which Chu found it inspiring.
In 1962, Chu painted a series of small oil paintings mainly in the horizontal format with a reduced and spacious composition; No. 134 (Lot 423) belongs to this short-lived yet stylistically distinct period of the artist's career. Pine green, black and white composed the painting. Kandinsky once said, ‘When [blue] sinks almost to black, it echoes a grief that is hardly human. When it rise towards the white… it appeal to men grows weaker and more distant’.
Chu demonstrated the extreme result of intensifying and reducing the colour of pine green. The bold calligraphic black lines in the middle balanced the shades of changing colour.
Chu Teh-Chun toiled mightily to enhance the expression of ‘light’ and ‘colour’, which accounts for his constant change of style in the 1970s. However, these changes were all aimed in one direction. Pierre Cabanne once commented: “Another distinctive characteristic of Teh-Chun’s expression is transparency. The viscous oil paints have been woven into a transparent new look. This translucent quality owes its origins to Chinese Xuan paper, which is not to be matched in the West.” The 1987 Voiles Diaphanes reveals the bold calligraphic had disappeared, replaced instead by flowing brush strokes. Through his flowing and unrestrained brush strokes, combined with careful arrangement of oil paints, Chu created a unique translucent effect to display the shifting quality of light. Using yellow and white colors as the light source, he released yellowish green and light pine green. Egg yellow, light orange yellow and soil yellow colour dots further highlight the blue colour. His swift and decisive brush strokes evolved to become color dots and blocks, and the vigorous calligraphy contours developed into sinuous lines.
26.4.1979 (Lot 425) is composed by various tones of blue colour with different density, sharpness and saturation, including sapphire, royal blue, cerulean, baby blue, cyan and sky blue. Tiny red dots are applied to highlight the blue colour. Kandinsky once said, ‘almost without exception, blue refers to the domain of abstraction and immateriality’. His swift and decisive brush strokes evolved to become color dots and blocks, and the vigorous calligraphy contours developed into sinuous lines, recapturing the intimacy with nature, landscapes and calligraphy that are deeply rooted in Eastern aesthetics and philosophy.