Following WWII, a group of Asian artists surged toward the West, landing in France, Italy, England, and the United States. In addition to pursuing new inspiration for their individual work, they united together to form an important community that was active within the Western art world. As the French representative, Chu Teh-Chun was subtly connected to the Punto Movement in ways that have largely been overlooked. Long before he had travelled to France, Chu had forged eastward toward Taiwan, taking on a teaching position at Taiwan Normal University, enlightening the young Hsiao Chin, Lin Kuo-Sung, Chuang Che, and other founders of the Eastern Painting Group and the Fifth Moon Painting Group. This foundation tightened the relationships between those artists who later went off to France and those who settled in Italy. In 1964, Hsiao Chin organized the ‘Contemporary Chinese Artist’ exhibition at the Museum Morsbroich in Leverkusen, and in 1982, he hosted an exhibit entitled ‘The Chinese Response: Paintings by Leading Overseas Artists’ at the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Chu lent his efforts toward both of both of these events, with preserved photographs documenting Chu’s works on display at the exhibitions. Chu went on to conquer the prodigious Alps, its ranges spanning France, Italy, and Switzerland. The magnificent scenery of the mountain range became the muse for Chu’s ‘Snow Scene’ series, which, universally acclaimed, are considered the artist’s most impressive masterpieces. Le 1978.12.28 (Lot 1012) and Abstraction neige II (Lot 1014) are two paintings whose styles bridge the artist’s creative past with what was to come, serving as a record of Chu’s expansive artistic journey.
The inspiration behind Chu’s most well-known ‘Snow Scene’ series can be traced to a trip taken by the artist to Switzerland in 1985. While journeying back from his travels, the artist’s train crossed through the Alps, and the spectacular scene of a snowstorm made a deep, indelible impression. Once he returned to France, Chu proceeded to create a series of oil paintings featuring scenes of snow. Abstraction neige II is one of the paintings completed during that year. The initial awakening of this inspiration, however, extends even farther into the past, to 1965, when Chu, visiting France for an arts festival, took a trip to Mont Blanc, the ‘Roof of Europe’. White all-year-round, the Alps appeared before Chu in all of its grand majesty, the misty fog and snow crisscrossing and merging together, rousing the rhythm pulsing at the root of Chu’s being. In this way, snow became one of the most important subjects in Chu’s artistic career. It was then that the artist also began considering how to seamlessly use the colour white, melding it into the scenes of his paintings. In Le 1978.12.28, one can already detect the faint beginnings of the ‘Snow Scene’ series. The mountains and snow are portrayed in a style that departs from figurative painting. Varying gradations of white and dimly visible lines crisscross to create an yijing (or ‘mood’) of a xieyi (or ‘freehand and spontaneous’) landscape. A haze of white snow dominates the entire canvas, much like the eternally white Alps.
The composition of Le 1978.12.28 invokes the traditional upright (or vertical scroll) form of traditional Chinese painting. The vertical scroll conveys a sense of both ‘high distance’ and ‘deep distance’. The sensation of layers and layers piling upon each other in this painting shares an interesting correspondence with Northern Song painter Fan Kuan’s Snow-Covered Scene and Cold Forest. Chinese painting and poetry are inextricably connected.Traditional Chinese painting captured impeccably the infinite variations of clouds and mist, and Chu thus took the advantages of ink painting and implemented them within his oil paintings. In Le 1978.12.28, Chu masterfully blends white upon the canvas, meticulously applying white oil colour in a variety of washes, creating a visual effect of rich yet fine layers. Together, the foreground, middle ground, and background form a sense of distance and depth, accentuating the thickness of the snow, the mountains blanketed in white. The colours of green and red exquisitely punctuate the white snow, adding to the vividness of the painting.
After nearly twenty years of gestation, Chu raised the opening curtains on his ‘Snow Scene’ series with an unprecedented work featuring the striking dynamism of whirling snow in Abstraction neige II, completed in 1985. Chu ingenuously captures the dynamism of the layered white world and the swirling snowflakes. This dynamism can be stratified into three layers. The first feeling of movement that meets the viewer’s eyes is that of the swirling snowflakes, which Chu created by flicking his brush. The white splatters fly toward all corners of the canvas, scattering upon the heavens and earth, and amid the mountain range. Following the trajectory of the artist’s movement, they seem to hint at the artist’s own movement, dancing upon the scene of snow. The spots of lemon yellow, verdant green, and ochre red hint at the abundant vitality of the scene, bringing to the snow scene a sense of visual richness. The artist once said that the colours within the snow are the traces of life leftover from real experiences. Chu unites the lines of calligraphy with the charm of ink, transmuting the thick texture of oil into ink that can be washed upon the surface, fully displaying the magnificent and winding mountains. Abstraction neige II is the result of decades of study by the artist of colour, line, and abstract form, and a union of Eastern and Western aesthetics that has been forged and refined into the ‘Snow Scene’ series.
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