signed Zao in English and Wuji in Chinese and dated 2003; signed in English and dated Mars - Avril 3 2003
A season’s change and almost thirty years separate Zao Wou-ki’s 1974.30.11 (Lot 39) and 2003.04.03 (Lot 42). In 2003, a shimmering opalescence lingers around forceful black brushstrokes that meander across the composition like mountaintops cutting through clouds, seen from above. Whereas 1974 epitomizes Zao’s own form of international abstraction of the period, this latter work of refined elegance directly references traditional Chinese landscape painting, in which expanses of emptiness may play the role of dramatic, material presence. And yet the graphic clarity of the minimal composition belies the work’s rich colorations, the fullness of this apparent emptiness. Brushstrokes of lemon yellow across the base of the composition dematerialize into what seem sprinkles of powdery pigment at lower right, and these find their complement in light touches of white above the chasm that cuts across the picture. The twists and turns of the blacks are met by violets, oranges, pinks, and the occasional umber or mustard; indeed, pinkish and greenish hues linger beneath the dominant light tones of the painting and contribute to its inner luminescence and atmospheric magic. 2003 is the late Zao Wou-ki at his finest.
Zao Wou-ki’s and Chu Teh-Chun’s later works unquestionably confirm the high reputation that each has long enjoyed in critical circles beyond North American shores. Developed over more than half a century, such graceful mastery and fluency of expression in their unique, personal idioms suggests that an unbiased re-examination and appreciation of each extensive body of work is long overdue.
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