As a central yet subversive figure in the Chinese modern art history, T'ang Haywen explored and developed a unique artistic practice which avoids any categorization. The selection that Christie's presents this season illustrates the broad imaginary scene and virtuoso practice of the artist in different medium such as gouache, ink or even oil pastel. Born in Xiamen in 1972, T'ang Haywen grew up in Saigon, Vietnam before arriving in France in 1948. Like most of his contemporaries and compatriots such as Chu Teh-Chun and Zao Wou-Ki, T'ang finds in the Parisian artistic scene a perfect channel to express the subtleties of traditional Chinese painting and modernize its practice.
In Untitled&i (Lot 402) and the gouache diptych (Lot 403), the Abstract Expressionism influence reflects in the vibrant palette of colors and the composition on the edge between figuration and abstraction. As a devotee of the Taoism philosophy, T'ang is drawn to capture the vivid forces that give life to the natural world ; in Untitled&i (Lot 403) the strong brushstrokes divide the composition into various geometrical spaces where we can imagine the horizon line of a mountain and some tree tops highlighted by a dazzling sun. The hieratic woman figure of Untitled&i (Lot 402) on another note recalls of a cubist treatment of the forms, enhanced by expressive colors.
By the 1970s, T'ang had fully mastered his abstract ink practice. The artist demonstrates his virtuosity and intimacy with the brush and the fluidity of the ink by creating powerful compositions. Untitled&i (Lots 405 & 561) reveals the richness of hues that the ink permits : sometimes strong and tumultuous with a dark ink squashed on the paper and sometimes ethereal such as the soft dots scattered all over the composition, T'ang knows how to handle the medium's energy. He uses its liveliness such as in Untitled&i (Lot 404) where the ink seems to have spread freely on the paper and create a lively composition. The emptiness in Untitled&i (Lot 406) and Untitled&i (Lot 562) balances the spaces covered by ink and creates an energetic movement, so specific to T'ang's works.
Untitled&i (Lot 560) ranges itself in a very critical period in T'ang's history and oeuvre. In 1966 T'ang is almost forty years old and exploring his artistic possibilities. Spending the season in Biarritz, a well-known seaside resort in the South of France, T'ang produced a series of small oil pastels works to which Lot 560 belongs. The artist is of course immerged into a burning political and philosophical atmosphere. Roland Barthes (1915-1980) a figure of the intellectual scene in France, published the same year Critics and Truth 1 which will have a high impact in the European minds at that time; the former beliefs and traditions are questioned and soon the barriers will fall. This context gives to T'ang a perfect stage to create this series. He liberates his artistic voice and squashed the surface with rough colors, following geometrical lines that his mind dictates. From this emerges this mysterious figure, a snapshot of the artist's vision.