Alisan Fine Arts Alice King Gallery, Hong Kong Private Collection, China
China Complex, In celebration of the return of Hong Kong to China, Collaborative Exhibition of Chinese artists from home and abroad, Shanghai Art Museum, Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong, China, 1997
For Zao Wou-ki, space means more than arrangement of pigments on canvas. In his paintings, canvases are worlds unto themselves—places of endless filling and fusing of things. Within the finite space of a canvas, Zao manifests the myriad interactions of colours and the vigorous force of the brush, creating a vast, magical, and spiritual world, prioritized aboveform. The form itself can either be non-figurative abstraction or faithful figuration. From the 90's onwards, the virtuosic Zao Wou-ki returned to figuration, which he had earlier abandoned, realizing his free and tranquil spirit remained in form. Abstract Landscape 27.08.91 from 1991 is an example of this. Here the artist makes use of the negative space prized in traditional ink painting, creating a vast sky in the middle of his composition with light green and white washes. Like jade, it is full of depth and evokes primordial chaos, and it separates the colourful evening clouds above and the topographical forms below. Although rendered in oil, the clouds have the ethereal translucency of light ink, submerging with the rays of the setting sun into the vast universe. In the far distance mountain ranges wind endlessly; in the foreground, purple- and ivory-coloured rocks stand solidly and peacefully but are nonetheless full of vitality, while barren trees on the left remain as relics of times past. With his energetic fusions of colours and bold, untrammeled brushwork, Zao creates a misty, ceaselessly changing scene of heaven and earth united as one—an expression of the Eastern philosophical ideals of the union of nature and humans and the losing of oneself in the tranquil void.
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