By the 1980s, Chu Teh-Chun’s reputation had reached a zenith. In 1985, by invitation of the Pierre Huber Gallery in Geneva, the artist travelled to Switzerland to participate in a group exhibition of “Five Abstract Painters.” During that visit, Chu Teh-Chun passed through the Alps, where the majestic scene of a snowy blizzard inspired Chu Teh-Chun to create the Snowscape series. The Snowscape series spanned a brief five years, from 1985 until 1990. Few in number, the works from this period are singular in their magnificence and accomplishment. Created in 1989, Evocation B (Lot 1024) manifests the power and force of Chu Teh-Chun’s encounter with the Alps, and marks a closing to the era of the artist’s depiction of these memories.
Snowscapes hold a distinctive position within traditional Chinese landscape paintings, where they have been depicted for over a thousand years. These scenes of snow are particularly difficult to create because the artist is effectively limited to one colour tone in generating the atmosphere of the climate, as well as the visual impression of layers and depth. Often, these scenes are depicted using the Chinese liubai or “leave blank” technique, or else through splatter painting, resulting in still scenes of snowy forests. Chu Teh-Chun’s snowscapes, however, capture the swirling dynamism of a powerful blizzard, successfully conveying the texture and movement of snow. Evocation B forges a new path for snowscape paintings with its xieyi or “freehand” spirit, and even more impressively, it sublimates the yijing or “mood” of the scene through the Western medium of oil. The fluttering movements and motion of snow are thus captured onto the canvas by the artist’s brush with exquisite facility.
Looking at Evocation B, the first thing the viewer notices is the impression of dynamic motion. Next are the black calligraphic lines, leaping upon the canvas. The lines appear in myriad variation, straight and curving, with an aesthetic order to their arrangement, bestowing the painting with a strong sense of rhythm. In this way, the artist’s movements while wielding the brush are manifested upon the page, as though he has joined nature in an ecstatic dance, attaining a state of utter abandon, forgetting both self and subject. Layers upon layers make up the large swathes of white in the background, with varying tones of white reflecting different degrees of thickness in the snow, giving the piece a sense of changing depth. The red, orange, green, and yellow scattered amid the scene of a cold, snowy blizzard lends a sense of hope and vitality.
Chu Teh-Chun has achieved a style in his abstract paintings that manifests the calligraphy techniques distinctive to Chinese art. Expressing his individual culture and aesthetics, he pushes the language of abstract art to a higher level. Chu Teh-Chun was an ethnic Chinese artist positioned within the world of post-war abstract painting, and as French art critic Gilbert Erouart once described:
‘[He] neither abandons nor rejects his memories of the East, and instead incorporates them onto his canvases with perfect discretion. The artist’s distinctive yet harmonious path avoids the trap of the cultural pastiche. The wide resonance of his works among art aficionados can be attributed to the paintings’ combination of this profound grounding in Chinese culture, which is effortlessly expressed, with Western abstract painting. After half a century, his abstract paintings have achieved a state of freedom and ease, one that transcends the self.’ Evocation B is undoubtedly the finest representation of Chu Teh-Chun’s individual artistic accomplishment.
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