Chen Qikuan (Chen Chi-Kwan)
- Chen Qikuan (Chen Chi-kwan)
- ink and colour on paper, hanging scroll
- executed in 1965
titleslip: inscribed and titled in English, and marked with three seals of a previous collector
titled in Chinese and marked with one seal of the artist
Water, Pine, and Stone Retreat Collection
Contemporary Taiwanese Ink Painting Series: Chen Chi-Kwan, Artist Publishing Co., Taipei, Taiwan, 2007, p. 126
Distinctively whimsical and thoughtfully composed, Chen Chi-kwan’s paintings are some of the most innovative in his generation. Chen’s formal creative training began in architecture as a colleague of the Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius, a teacher at MIT, and as a collaborator of IM Pei on the design of Tunghai University in Taiwan. His keen eye for design infused the traditional monochromatic brushstrokes of Chinese painting with spirited vigour. Unrestrained by tradition, his paintings provide a refreshing vision of Chinese ink art as early as the 1950s. As described by his contemporary and artist Ho Huaishuo, “His simplicity is derived from his understanding of life and Chinese naturalist philosophy. Chen tries to reflect a certain oriental spirit, with special flavour for the thoughts of Laozi. His paintings explain and interpret Laozi’s teachings. They are extremely concise and condensed, offering inspiration and charm for the viewers.”1 As seen in Cloud Opening (Lot 553), Chen achieves a sense of movement, space and time in his works that draws upon the philosophical views of Chinese landscape painting but is actually inspired by a vision that came to him during a flight over the Burmese border in 1945. This aerial view and moveable vantage point becomes a hallmark of his artistic career inspired by his keen eye for design and admiration for Western style painting.
Throughout his life, Chen’s paintings were widely exhibited internationally between Asia, North America and Europe. The variety of his subjects ranges from animals, such as monkeys, cats and fish, to dream-like interiors reminiscent of Chinese gardens and majestic mountain vistas. In Nymph, Mood, and Peace (Lots 550, 552, 554) Chen uses architectural elements of doors and furniture to guide his viewers into his carefully layered landscapes. In an interview published in 1996 Chen remarks that, “[In painting,] proportion and perspective are not enough. We need to add some interesting elements to it that perhaps would be more relevant to humanity.”2 The paintings in this private collection provide a snapshot of Chen’s delightful works from the 1980s, which aptly express both the artist’s and collector’s enthusiasm for life and art. Scholar Michael Sullivan remarks that Chen’s paintings are such an exact expression of his vision that they need no commentary; 3 and not all works of art need to be serious artistic explorations of the human condition.
1 He Huaishuo, “The Universe in a Mustard Seed”, Special Study on Chen Chi-kwan, Han Mo Xuan, Taipei, No. 20, 1991, p. 20
2 Han Mo- Special Study on Chen Chi-kwan, Han Mo Xuan Publishing, Taipei, 1991, No. 20, p. 101
3 Sullivan, Michael. Art and Artists of Twentieth-century China, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1996, p. 187