107
107

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE ASIAN COLLECTION

Wu Guanzhong
HIGHLAND HOUSEHOLDS
Estimate
6,000,0008,000,000
LOT SOLD. 6,280,000 HKD
JUMP TO LOT
107

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE ASIAN COLLECTION

Wu Guanzhong
HIGHLAND HOUSEHOLDS
Estimate
6,000,0008,000,000
LOT SOLD. 6,280,000 HKD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Modern and Contemporary Asian Art — Evening Sale

|
Hong Kong

Wu Guanzhong
1919-2010
HIGHLAND HOUSEHOLDS
signed in Chinese and dated 81; signed in Chinese, titled and dated 1981 on the reverse
oil on board
53.5 by 75 cm.;   21 by 29 1/2  in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Important Private Asian Collection

Literature

Wu Guanzhong and Zhai Mo, Rainbow Life: Wu Guanzhong's Painting, Guangxi Arts Publishing House, Naning, 1999, p. 52
Wu Guanzhong, The Landscape of Life, Wu Guanzhong's Album in Art, SDX Joint Publishing Company, Beijing, 2003, pp. 8 – 9
Shui Tianzhong, and Wang Hua ed., The Complete Works of Wu Guanzhong, Vol. III, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, Changsha, 2007, p.186
Wu Guanzhong, Vol. II, Jiangxi Fine Arts Publishing House, Nanchang, 2008, p. 328

Catalogue Note

Wu Guanzhong's Xinjiang-inspired Masterpiece Highland Household 

In the 1980s, although Wu Guanzhong was in his sixties, he was still full of life. He produced a large number of paintings and artistic writings. As mainland China started its reform and opening up, there was gradually a freer atmosphere in the art world. In 1981, Wu Guanzhong published an article in Art Magazine called Does content define form? It provoked an important debate, and produced the subsequent “85 New Wave." As well as teaching at the Academy, he continued to paint a variety of subjects and gather inspiration. Highland Household was born out of one of his trips to Xinjiang that year. It is a masterwork that demonstrates the modernist art he advocated.

An extra momentum during productive years, uncovering the beauty of the western regions.

The process of Wu Guanzhong's painting is closely tied with the trips that he made. The ancient name for Xinjiang was 'western region.' It is in the border area of north west China with very different natural environment and social customs. In 1981, the Central Institute of Arts and Crafts started offering classes in Xinjiang. Professors took turns to teach. Therefore, as the autumn came, Wu Guanzhong took advantage of the job to go to Gaochang and the Ancient City of Jiaohe in Turpan to draw sketches. He absorbed the beauty of the western region through the view of modern art.

The trip was very hard going. Wu Guanzhong recalled that "the temperature was more than 40 degrees. It was more than 60 at the foot of the Flaming Mountain. Eggs would cook. When it got too hot, I had to return to the place I was staying to continue working from my impression and imagination." (Gaochang Ruins, Ancient City of Jiaohe). The extreme climate did not put Wu Guanzhong off. Instead, it fired up his creativity. In continuation of the 1970s oil painting peak, Wu Guanzhong started to paint using oil and ink alternately. The important thing he achieved from his trip was a series of Xinjiang-themed pieces, including the popular coloured ink works Gaochang Ruins, and Ancient City of Jiaohe. Highland Household was created first by making a coloured ink sketch and finishing it with oil paints. The care the artist took is evident.

Modern aesthetics, reforging desert charm

Shang Hui, an art history expert, once commented on Wu Guanzhong's works: "They don't have the so-called subjects that were popular in art circles at the time. They begin to reveal the painter's decomposition and reconstruction of the lines and surfaces hidden in the scenery. There are Cubist concepts, but it is unlike the splitting up of the subject of Cubism. While maintaining the subject's visual experience, his works are searching for an ideal reconstruction of dots, lines and surfaces. Elegant and aesthetic rules command the painting". ("National Style - The Deepening and Recreation of the Evolution of Language and History in Chinese Painting" ) This comment contains a perfect description of the artistic characteristics in Highland Household. The painting has a central composition. In the middle there is a house. Judging from the distant towering snowy mountains, the scene is probably close to the Altai mountains. Through the artist's refinement, the plateau, which was originally dull with indeterminate layers, has become a soft and pleasing amber colour, extending in different colour gradations. In order to highlight the mottled earth wall, Wu Guanzhong divided it into small squares and rectangles. He painted different colour gradations of brown with a flat brush, with a deliberate residual texture. This makes the small squares like notes, which produce a leaping musical feel. For the large tree above the house he applied a similar technique, using irregular layered texture of the paint to build up a dense, robust image.

Integrating East and West, creating an independent standard

Wu Guanzhong's unique artistic language is based on personality and constantly absorbing, and digesting the essence of Chinese and Western art. While he was studying in Paris, Wu Guanzhong admired Maurice Utrillo's city landscapes. He studied Utrillo in detail, which was a foundation for his future southern Yangtze and rural subjects. As his works matured, he explored combining Chinese and Western elements. For example he took on the colour philosophy of Cezanne, the father of modern Western art. This similarity in creating layers in the painting of Chinese and Western art is shown clearly in the colours in Highland Household.

Apart from texture, Wu Guanzhong also stressed form. His landscape painting was based on painting nature. He did that not to copy real life but to capture its beauty. Wu Guanzhong did not deny that he frequently "moved mountains and overturned seas", or "substituted one thing for another" to compose an image. He even believed that momentary feelings that arise out of illusion is more insightful than thorough observation.  In Highland Household, Wu Guanzhong used his subjective creativity. He drew on Song Dynasty typical crab claw-shaped branches for the image of the large tree. They resemble moving tentacles. The flock of sheep outside the village door are very likely the results of his observations. They have been placed in the foreground. The two people at the door are classic of Wu Guanzhong. They are small bright coloured dots, which give the work a finishing touch. They become highlights of the painting, representing the reality of the desert, with hardly a trace of people, but there is life. It is a fine work among Wu Guanzhong's paintings.

Modern and Contemporary Asian Art — Evening Sale

|
Hong Kong