During Chu Teh-Chun’s time in France, exhibitions for the artist were being held continuously both at home and abroad. It was for this reason that Chu Teh-Chun had the opportunity to travel and see the natural scenery in different parts of the world. Taking memories from his travels and internalizing them, the artist created images of a spiritualized landscape in a distinct, individual style. Chu Teh-Chun firmly believed in the idea, originally stated by Nicolas de Staël, that the abstract does not stand in opposition to the figurative. To Chu Teh-Chun, this same concept was similarly expressed in Laozi’s dictum from the Tao te Ching: “Indistinct and elusive, Yet within there is form, Elusive and indistinct, Yet within there is substance.” In his eyes, the “form” invoked in the Tao Te Ching was the “figurative form” of Western art, while “substance” pointed to both real and concrete images as well as the reappearance of these images in memory. For this reason, Chu Teh-Chun sometimes gave titles to his paintings that were not simply the serial numbers given to purely abstract compositions. The lot on offer, Ce qui se passe, is undoubtedly a record of the artist’s experience of power and force during his encounter with the Swiss Alps, an experience that later inspired the Snowscape series between 1985-1990.
Rarely seen in his snowscape paintings, Ce qui se passe features a background composed of green, blue-green, and deep-green hues, with black ink lines that roam and traverse the canvas in all visual variety – thick and narrow, light and heavy. Together, these elements create a majestic abstract scene with a strong presence of structure and vitality. Chu Teh-Chun’s interest and training in calligraphy began early, especially in “wild cursive” calligraphy. To observe these lines and brushwork as a whole in this Western abstract painting is to discern their calligraphic spirit. The myriad and varied lines are not constrained to purely expressing form or creating a certain composition, but instead, they generate a sense of movement and dynamism. Like the bow of an instrument, the artist’s brush creates lines that leap and dance across the canvas. Swift and slow, straight and curved, thick and narrow, wet and dry, these oil brushstrokes unleash emotion across the scene, while appearing like lines rendered in calligraphy ink, carrying a deeply Chinese aura. The luxuriant green tones evoke the atmosphere of remote valleys, and the orange patches of colour, seemingly spontaneously distributed, adorn the canvas with a mastery that enlivens the image with vitality. The white background suggests the iconic image of the snow-covered Alps, the snow made all the more brilliant by sunlight, reflecting upon and brightening the deep valleys. This light from the canvas seems also to radiate from within Chu Teh-Chun himself, a heralding of his next artistic accomplishment.
The chronology of Chu Teh-Chun’s career reveals that the artist had already visited Mont Blanc in 1965, after which he began experimenting with white tones in his paintings. Following more than a decade of cogitation, Ce qui se passe, whose subject the artist reveals in the title, recalls the grandeur and majesty of the Alps. The following year, Ce qui se passe was selected to be in Chu Teh-Chun’s solo exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts André Malraux in France. The exhibition featured the most important works by the artist following his arrival in France in 1955. The inclusion of this painting is a testament to the artist’s fondness for it, and its significance as a milestone in the artist’s career.
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