– Zhou Chunya
Painted with vibrant brushwork that attests to the artist’s mastery of his technique, Little Path to Dragon Spring Mountain is an outstanding example from Zhou Chunya’s acclaimed oeuvre. Depicting lusciously painted blossoms on the branches of peach trees, set against golden fields in the background, the work is at once an exercise in technical virtuosity and full of symbolic meaning.
Like many of his contemporaries, Zhou Chunya’s early work was inspired by Social Realist painting from the Soviet Union, but this political undertone would not be a lasting influence. After a journey to the Tibetan enclave of the Ruoergai Prairie in Sichuan’s Hongyuan County with fellow student Zhang Xiaogang in 1980, he became less concerned with politics and experienced a shift towards a more poetic practice. As Zhou recalls: “After departing from the experience on the prairie, many of the concrete events receded from my mind. But what remained was the intensity of the grasslands, the thick colours, the purity and coarseness of the Tibetans, as well as the lines that run through these colors and forms” (Zhou Chunya: “I Paint in Oil”, Art, 1982, vol. 4).
Over the years, Zhou Chunya’s paintings became increasingly lyrical, culminating with the peach blossom paintings that originate from this Tibetan excursion. An important motif that first appeared in his oeuvre in 1997, the peach blossom would become a major series of paintings after Zhou married the musician Shuan-Shuan in 2005. During a celebratory trip with friends to the Mountain of the Dragon Well to appreciate the blossoming trees in their full glory, the artist was inspired to turn the blossom into a full-blown body of work. Although he had painted this particular spot on many instances already, this time the location took on a much more romantic meaning – as the artist explained: “I like vigorous things. The blossoms spreading all over the hills around Chengdu stimulated me… I felt the impulses of life immediately” (Xu Zhixiang, Ed., Zhou Chunya’s Paintings, Hong Kong, 2010, p. 20).
Zhou’s blossoms are at once idyllic and lavishly sumptuous, innocuously harmonious in subject matter yet pregnant with provocative sexual undertones – in traditional Chinese painting, peach blossoms are symbols of the feminine and the delicate, and of desire. Vibrantly capturing the artist’s feelings of excitement of standing amongst the fields of blossoming peach trees of one of his favourite spots, Little Path to Dragon Spring Mountain is a masterful example from one of the Zhou Chunya’s most important bodies of work.
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