Executed in 1970.
Taichung, Providence University Art Center, Light of Life - Chao Chung-hsiang Memorial Exhibition, September 2004
Taipei, National Museum of History, Chao Chung-hsiang: An Eternal Searcher, March 2003
Taichung, Taiwan National Art Museum, Waves Striking: One Hundrad Years of Taiwanese Arts, June 2001, p. 144, illustrated in color
New York, The Chinese Information and Culture Center, Simple·Shapes·Multiple·Visions - Square and Circle Taiwan Contemporary Art Exhibition, March 2001
Taiwan, Zhao Mi Collector's Club, Sixth Anniversary Exhibition on Chao Chung-hsiang, 1997
Hong Kong, Alisan Fine Arts, Chao Chung-hsiang Solo Exhibition, 1994
Among the many Chinese artists of the 20th century who developed visual vocabularies that manifested the encounter between traditional ink painting and Western oil painting, Zhao Chunxiang is perhaps the one who most consistently foregrounds this confrontation in his pictorial language. Often viewed as “resolving” these disparate traditions in an “harmonious” union of the two, the great strength of Zhao’s work – as with many eccentric painters with highly individualized hands – is that it defies such tidy characterizations.
At Hangzhou’s National Academy of Art, Zhao studied with Lin Fengmian and Pan Tianshou, two great reformers of Chinese painting, each with his own productive conception of the relationship between artistic tradition and modern aesthetics. Moving to Taiwan in the late 1940s, traveling in Europe in the mid-1950s, and taking up residence in the United States later that decade, Zhao benefited from extended first-hand contact with a great variety of artistic contexts. This varied history is vividly expressed in a work such as Midsummer of 1970.
Midsummer is not so much a synthesis of East and West as a straightforward acknowledgement – indeed, a jubilant declaration – that both distinguished traditions are alive and well in the artist’s mind, resources available for the construction of his own painterly worlds. In his most captivating works, Zhao transcends the “both/and”, “neither/nor” distinctions that have long preoccupied those wishing to parse the Eastern and Western and meld them back together as a neatly resolved whole. Instead, the resolve expressed in Midsummer is that of an artist immersed in the properties of color and media, their interaction with each other, and the compositional dynamism of radical juxtapositions – whether East/West, ink/acrylic, black/color, realist/abstract, disorder/order, and so forth.
Zhao’s works undoubtedly participate in the renewal of the Chinese ink painting tradition, just as they do in the vibrant pictorial dialogue of New York abstraction in its heyday. But their greatest strength is the eloquent and straightforward expression of the complexity of his training, travels and rich life experiences.
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