In 1972, T'ang Haywen exhibited his works at the Musée de l'Abbaye de Ste Croix located in the town of Les Sables d'Olonne, Vendée Centre in the Western region of France. The Abbaye possesses an important collection of works by Gaston Chaissac, an artist much appreciated by T'ang for his spontaneous and free expression. In 2013-2014, an exhibition at the Musée de l'Abbaye de Ste Croix and entitled Between Pen and Brush featured the works of Gaston Chaissac (1910-1964) and Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985), both famous painters of the art brut style; an appellation often translated in English as "outsider art".
Born in Xiamen in 1927, T'ang Haywen grew up in Saigon, Vietnam. Arriving in France in 1948, the same year as his compatriot Zao Wou-Ki, T'ang - like many of his contemporaries who immersed themselves in France at the time such as Chu Teh-Chun - found Abstract Expressionism a perfect channel to demonstrate the subtleties in traditional Chinese painting through pure non-figurative elements of colour, light and composition.
T'ang had fully mastered his abstract ink practice by the 1970s. Dictated by a transcendental force, he used the characteristic ink fluidity to draw broad flexible gestures on the paper and create powerful compositions. The two diptychs Untitled, ink on Kyro card (Lot 8) and ink and colour (Lot 9), were completed during this critical period. The execution in these ink paintings achieved a perfect balance between the explosive power and the sense of harmony in the fleeting brushwork - every stroke was a living pulse that dances across the universe. As a devotee of the Taoism philosophy, T'ang exemplified the beliefs of 'duality is born out of unity' and 'duality is reverted to unity' in the diptych format. The two parts of the work complement each other to communicate a massive cosmology to the viewer.
The other two works Untitled (Lot 6 & Lot 7) thoroughly demonstrate the improvisational quality in T'ang's virtuosic brushwork despite being a set of figurative pieces. The lines do not only serve to delineate the silhouette of the face. As if they are living creatures, these lines organically sprawl across the entire picture plane and transform themselves into thousands of rich and nuanced shades. The artist decisively executed these works without pedantically adhering to anatomical-correctness. Another highlight that these two works share is the exuberant colours - T'ang's colour works are always filled with brilliant tones that are finely layered. The yellow-brown faces are accentuated by the green eyebrows; Facial features outlined in whites are starkly contrasted with the dark-brown and indigo figures. Such daring use of colours is reminiscent of the bold hues of Henri Matisse.
The diversity in the choice of creative media, the unorthodox yet masterful use of visual language, and the breadth of T'ang's artistic vision earned his works a special position in art history. As T'ang avoided any categorisation and maintained his artistic independence, a unique style was thus established, one that is imbued with both Asian philosophy and Western art historical discourse.