Chu Teh-Chun (Zhu Dequn)
- Chu Teh-Chun (Zhu Dequn)
- signed in Pinyin and Chinese and dated 90-91; signed in Pinyin and Chinese and dated 90-91 on the reverse
- oil on canvas
- 146 by 114 cm.; 57 1/2 by 44 7/8 in.
Important Private Asian Collection
Chu Teh-Chun, Untitled, a painting from the 1990s
Over the course of his career, Chu Teh-Chun’s abstract paintings have evolved and undergone a series of breakthroughs, these changes rooted not only in his meticulous study of art, but also in his exposure to ancient and contemporary philosophy and literature. His pioneering contributions were founded upon a base of Chinese culture, which was enriched through a lifelong exploration of the gems of Western civilization, and, through his own creations, the artist has promoted the interaction and harmony of these two great civilizations. By the 1980s and 90s, Chu’s handle of line, color, composition, and emotional resonance in abstract painting had reached a state of naturalness and penetration. The refinement of his paintings embodied the most basic principles of philosophy as well as the highest levels of cosmology, all for which Untitled （Lot 1016）, completed between 1990 and 1991, serves as a testament.
Daoism and Christianity: A Journey through the Philosophical World of Abstractionism
The concept of the cosmos that emerges in Chu Teh-Chun’s paintings does not belong entirely to Eastern or Western traditions. It transcends the divides of nationality and borders and arrives at an elevated state of spiritual contemplation. The effects of light and color in Untitled stand in significant contrast to those of Chu’s earlier works. The traditional Chinese calligraphic brushwork is ubiquitous, unified with Western representations of color. But the collision of these two artistic traditions – which in the past was used to create tension and drama – is now harmonious, mutually resonant, like the woodwinds and strings of a symphony. The Chinese philosophy of Taoism believes that the cosmos is a self-formed, self-regulated entity, that it existed at its beginnings as something formless and perfect, with the alternation of dark and light (or yin and yang) representing the movement of the cosmos. Untitled, its light and color and abstract brushwork saturated with vigor and strength, is the perfect representation of the Taoist vision of the cosmos, formless and incorporeal.
The foundations of the Western world are built upon Christianity, which upholds the belief that the world was created by a god, the Lord, who possesses an individual will. The Book of Genesis describes: “God said, Let there be light, and there was light; And God saw the light, and it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness; God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness He called ‘night.’ And there was evening and there was morning – the first day.” Light, as a symbol in Christianity, and in the entire Western world, represents the might of God, order, and wisdom, a force that banishes evil, gives order to chaos, and sweeps away the God-forsaken. It is because of this symbolism that the great European cultural movement of the 17th and 18th centuries was called the Age of Enlightenment. In addition to his comprehensive study of Eastern philosophy, Chu tirelessly explored the origins of Western civilization. In 1993, not long after completing Untitled, the artist created a painting titled Genesis, a testament to his commitment to linking Eastern and Western philosophy through Abstractionism. The transcendence expressed in this painting’s use of light, color, and brushwork is, without exception, inspired by this tremendous calling.
The manifestation of Western philosophy in Chu’s Untitled comes not only from reading, but even more so from the way he lived his life, his subjective experience and interpretation of nature, his lifelong travels that were an attempt to understand the transformations of Western civilization. Chu’s close friend and art critic Pierre Cabane once wrote in his essay “Chu Teh-Chun”:
"In 1991, [Chu] and Longobardi went to Italy for short stay, during which time he was exposed to Italian painting, a crucial discovery for the artist. A new type of art made its way into the reserves of the artist’s emotional vicissitudes. The unusual mid-spring light at the Venetian Lagoon, which was at once limpid and hazy with fog, thoroughly mesmerized Chu."
The city of Venice was an important center and major power during the Italian Renaissance. The paintings from the Renaissance are predominantly narrations of biblical stories, depicted through real scenes and real people. In order to express the holiness, reverence, as well as sacrificial and philosophical natures of these religious figures, the ancient masters often used light and colors to heighten the effects upon the canvas, elevating the paintings’ charm and enchantment. This type of creative attitude and technique that comes out of a spirit of devotion deeply inspired Chu’s Abstractionist paintings. In Untitled, Chu uses bright and clean colors, which stand in great contrast to his earlier style. The artist’s sturdy and thick blocks of color, substantial in appearance, were now transformed into colors that are light and translucent, like rainbows that have transcended the realm of the material. The origins of this refinement of light and color can be traced back to masters Titian and Veronese of the Late Renaissance. It is evident, then, that Chu’s blend of the ancient with the contemporary was not limited to Chinese art, but something that came from the methods and principles of many different sources.