In traditional Chinese painting, peach blossoms are symbols of the feminine and the delicate. They also suggest erotic desire. Zhou once revealed his painting of peach blossoms was inspired by thoughts of his third wife, Shuang Shuang. He acknowledged that the image of the blossoms contain direct sexual connotations.
"My paintings are all related to passion and romance. Desire is a component of being human. It's something innate. More importantly, our feelings and desire towards sex are a manifestation of vitality, and they symbolise a life in flourish."
Zhou Chunya was born in 1955 to an artistic and intellectual family in the city of Chongqing. From an early age, his father, a literary critic, encouraged Zhou’s efforts in painting, and left him a wealth of material resources – books on Eastern and Western art theory as well as an original painting by Zhang Daqian.
After graduating from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1980s, Zhou distanced himself from the ’85 New Wave. He travelled to Germany and enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Kassel. During his time in Germany, he witnessed the peak of Neo-Expressionism and was inspired by the works of Anselm Kiefer, Georg Baselitz, and A.R. Penck.
The peach blossoms motif first appeared in Zhou’s works as early as 1997 before forming part of one of the artist’s major series in 2004. Created in 2010, the present work is a monumental and sophisticated example that exhibits Zhou’s brushwork, compositional technique and use of colour at its most mature and superlative.
All the iconic Zhou colours are present, including the lurid pink of his Red Figure nudes, the iconic green from his Green Dog series and the signature brown from his earliest works inspired by Tibet.
Dramatically atmospheric, exuding fervent passion and vivacity, the grand masterpiece achieves the artist’s most sublime fusion of East and West. As eminent critic Li Xianting observed in a conversation with Zhou: “I think you have reached a new height in your art achievement with the peach blossom series. You successfully reflect the tradition of the literati painting through oil painting. Traditional literati artists have always been painting bamboos, the chrysanthemum, plum flowers and orchids… [while] peach blossoms were not traditionally praised. It is your biggest achievement to love, to accept love, thus creating these peach blossoms so affectionately and create these works in a modern way”.