This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Foundation Zao Wou-Ki and will be included in the artist's forthcoming catalogue raisonné by Françoise Marquet and Yann Hendgen.
At the beginning of the 1970s, Zao Wou-Ki was desperately seeking inspiration as he found it impossible to paint. He had gone back to the wash-drawing technique, which combines chance, ink and the brush. This interlude gave him a greater freedom and a more expansive gesture. In the wash drawings, he had been playing with the void as well; he would keep that in his paintings although the empty space would be filled in with color. In 1972, his second wife, May died. In order to recover from this tragic loss, Zao decided to travel to China for the first time since he had left twenty-four years ago. This first trip was shortly followed in 1974 by a second one as he was granted with almost an official reception and was free to visit the country. These successive returns strengthened his inspiration and gave him new energy. In his works from the 1970s, and this would go on in the 1980s, and 1990s as well, the central void is the driving force. For the artist, this empty space is a world into itself: a place full of energy showing the filling and the fusing of things. Like in the present work, within the finite space of the canvas, Zao depicts - with the vigorous force of the brush - the myriad interactions of colors and therefore creates a vast magical and spiritual world. In 1969, Zao Wou-Ki was asked by René de Solier about his favorite colors. His answer was as follows: “ I love all colors. I have no favorite colors. I am sensitive, above all, to vibrations.” As Jean Leymarie wrote in his 1978 Monograph, “This brief reply is one of the keys to his paintings and to its mysterious radiance. (…) In Zao Wou-Ki’s eyes, therefore, colors are not substances but radiations, nor are they opposed to graphic work. They give life to space and describe the flow of the light. (J. Leymarie, Zao Wou-Ki, New York, 1979, p. 44).
Although Zao had been practicing the abstraction since 1957, in his large compositions, the landscape can always been found underneath the abstract and colorful world. In the present work, the artist makes use of the negative space prized in traditional ink painting by creating a vast sky. By adding layers of translucent paint, he creates this full of depth yet ethereal atmosphere. On the foreground the earth seems to be suggested, under the appearance of rocks, against which sea-foam is spurting out. The French poet René Char described this particular phenomenon in the introduction to Zao Wou-Ki’s exhibition’s catalogue at the Galerie de France in Paris in 1975: “ My reactions to Zao Wou-Ki’s work are of three kinds. First there is a profound identification with the graphic quality of his earliest work, with its elusively beckoning, almost nomadic color and the forms obediently following the painter’s hand, travelling distances the enduring importance of which has been revealed to us by a remote and ancient art. Then the interruption of this initial dialogue leads to the discovery of a second chaos which seems to be on the verge of flowing into a figure straying along the edges of deep abysses. These are calling to him, but he remains suspended in the expanse. And at this point the aerial and telluric spell of the wandering Orpheus makes its impact. All the separate elements in his work are constantly interacting, like a transient demarcation line, that line in the evening that separates the colors in a tumultuous whole (…). (J. Leymarie, op. cit, p. 49).