Zhou Chunya’s Green Dog ranks amongst the strangest creatures within the iconography of contemporary art. Painted in an astonishing emerald green, a precise shade of Italian Classico Verde 290, the artist’s beloved German Shepherd Heigen (‘Black Root’) channels a fervent, almost bewitching, vitality. Flushed fangs frame a panting crimson abyss of a mouth, which contrasts viscerally with the creature’s green coat. Exhibiting a masterful marriage of bold colour and expressionistic form, Zhou’s Green Dog is paradigmatic of Zhou Chunya's painterly virtuosity and provocative disposition that synthesizes his early training as a Mao propaganda portrait painter, the realist teachings of the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts program, the passions of German Neo-Expressionism, and the deep traditions of Chinese literati masters.
While known for his skilful handling of complex palettes in other iconic works, it is Zhou’s ability to unshackle the expressive potentials of a single hue in his Green Dog series that truly establishes his mastery over colour. Such accomplishments did not come easy: when Zhou began painting at the age of sixteen in one of the few schools that existed during the Cultural Revolution, the limited curriculum on Western art focused exclusively on Russian realism; it was much later before he discovered the liberated possibilities of colour via the canon of Western modernism. Later still, after graduating from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1980s, Zhou distanced himself from the ’85 New Wave, traveling instead to Germany and enrolling in the Academy of Fine Arts in Kassel. While there, he witnessed the peak of Neo-Expressionism and was profoundly inspired by the work of Anselm Kiefer, Georg Baselitz and A.R. Penck. Zhou remarks: “It was only in Germany that I began to realize what art is. Before that I only had a vague feeling” (cited in Li Xianting, “Interview with Zhou Chunya”, in Hong Lei, ed., Zhou Chunya, Beijing, 2010, p. 26).
His horizons widened, Zhou hurried home in 1989 to develop his own visual lexicon. Distancing himself from the concurrent Cynical Realism and Political Pop trends, Zhou researched the art of the great literati masters Bada Shanren and Huang Binhong, leading him to his Rocks and Peach Blossoms series, both beginning in 1990. Situated between Chinese tradition and Neo-Expressionism, these two series were explosive in form and intent, employing Western media and techniques to express quintessentially Chinese symbols. The third motif that catapulted him to even greater heights of recognition was his highly personal and autobiographical Green Dog. In 1994, the artist adopted the German Shepherd from a friend and the pair quickly became inseparable, with Heigen even sharing the artist’s bed. Zhou repeatedly painted Heigen from that year onwards, first in realistic black, then in expressionistic green starting from 1997. Whether positioned against fading cityscapes, nondescript interiors or plain backgrounds, the vividly emerald and anthropomorphic canine always took centre stage, standing guard with a searing immediacy over shapeless seas of grey.
Zhou has said: “The green dog is an emblem, a symbol. Green represents a quiet, romantic and lyrical expression – it is portentous, symbolic of the lull before the storm” (Jonathan Goodman, “Zhou Chunya: Heading Neither West Nor East”, in ibid, p. 416). Igniting a manifold of symbolic possibilities, Zhou’s Green Dog stands for the purity of primal passions and the ideal of genuine expression with lurking undertones of violence, aggression, and provocative rebellion – a complex, eccentric and epochal leitmotif that made Zhou one of the most unpredictable and important artists in China today.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale