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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist in the 1970s

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘I think that painting is not a Chinese problem, a European problem, or an American problem, but rather an international problem. So, I think that Chinese painting and Western painting shouldn’t be separated; they should be considered as a whole. For foreigners [that is, anyone who is not Chinese], sketching is a basic skill; for Chinese, the brushwork of calligraphy is a basic skill. These are both basic skills of painting, but you can also use these two skills together. I think that Chinese art and Western art have no conflict; they can only help each other and complement each other. You can’t say that you paint Chinese paintings, and I paint Western paintings, it doesn’t make sense to separate them.’ – Zao Wou-Ki
    (Zao Wou-Ki and Sun Jianping, Zhao Wuji Jiangxue Bilu [The lecture notes of Zao Wou- Ki], Tianjin, 1987, pp. 1–2)

    Born the son of a successful banker in Beijing, Zao Wou-Ki settled in Paris in 1948 in the hopes of expanding his artistic possibilities. This supposed visit eventually became a permanent residency in France, where Zao plunged himself into the epicentre of the Parisian art scene. Zao created almost all of his mature works in Paris. Like many of his artistic peers who identified with multiple cultures, he created works that arose from inhabiting the liminal space or ‘in-betweenness’ of being all at once an insider and an outsider of his artistic inheritances. Straddling the traditions of his Chinese heritage as well as the post-war school of painting in Paris, his artistic career is fully recognised as one deeply rooted in a holistic approach towards culture rather than a conveniently dichotomous vision of it. Within this realm, he is not bound to one tradition, but freed by having both.

    14.09.70 comes from a French private collector who shared a deep friendship with Zao Wou-Ki over several decades. The collector first came across Zao’s works at the artist’s Galerie de France exhibition circa 1970, and subsequently visited Zao’s studio where, drawn by the beauty of the work, he acquired it. Fresh to the market, 14.09.70 has since been in the home of this private collector.

    Painted in 1970, 14.09.70 exhibits the characteristics of Zao’s endeavours within a period of embracing ink painting aesthetics in his oil canvases. By the late fifties, Zao had committed himself to abstraction. As his evolution took him through different stages, he found himself influenced by the Abstract Expressionist school when he visited New York during the height of the movement. What were seemingly spontaneous gestures on his canvases were painstakingly constructed. A truly international artist by contemporaneous standards, Zao travelled widely and allowed himself to experience and absorb influences at the forefront of global artist developments.

    Also in the late fifties, various artistic milieux brought Zao to witness first-hand the avant-garde art movements in Japan, where he met with artists such as Kumi Sugai, Hisao Domoto, Morita Shiryu and Yuichi Inoue. He started to ponder the debt to the traditions of ink and calligraphy which he had been trained in. Having shied away from ink painting for sake of avoiding the repulsions of ‘chinoiseries’, Zao took up Chinese ink painting with a decisive and impactful dive in the early 1970s, which enabled him to further cross-pollinate the techniques he used across the various media of oil painting, lithography, ink painting and watercolours. He brought the approach of layering thin ink washes on paper to the way he sustained painting with oils diluted in extensive turpentine to add to and rework the surfaces to manipulate the pictorial ground between foreground, middle-ground and background, creating results that assimilated Western colour composition and layout, and which culminated in images filled with ephemeral light and sensual wonder.

    The poet Henri Michaux championed Zao’s so-called return to Chinese ink painting in the early 1970s: "He showed me other [paintings] that he had so subtly washed [with ink]. It was as though smoke had penetrated them instead of ink. Oh! What a surprise! And what joy! He had thus rekindled his legacy: the rhythms of nature, greater than nature, as pictured in the minds of people of that part of the world."

    ‘Deprived from trees, rivers, forests, hills, but full of waterspouts, jiggles, spurts, impulses, drips and diaphanous colored magma dilating, coming out and bursting forth.’ – Henri Michaux

    The composition of 14.09.70 is an artful, angled trisection evoking an abstract landscape of rising mist above expansive riverbanks and mountains, reminiscent of the liubai (‘to leave blank’) aesthetic of Chinese ink painting, especially seen in Ni Zan’s pared-down landscape compositions. Our gaze lingers on the ambiguity present in the composition where empty space can be interpreted as either sky or water within a composition of solid and void. There is a luminosity breathing through the middle and background of the landscape of sweeping brushstrokes of warm orange pinks and blue greens, evocative of rolling mountainside rivers or lakes, countering the enveloping, swirling darkness.

    Zao also inherits the spirit of the Chinese ink medium through colour, his use of monochromatic tones and a recourse to a black that resembles ink. The clouds in the distance seem still and swollen with moisture, while the black brushstrokes in the lower right corner form the dynamic heart of the work, as if the beginning of a hurling vortex of energy coalescing. As René Char describes it, ‘This chaos remains suspended in the wilderness. There the ethereal and telluric spell of the travelling Orpheus breaks through. Every element forming the dividing line is the one behind the distribution of colors in a tempestuous upheaval’.

    The work exhibits the calligraphic methods of feibai (‘flying white’), where a brush lightly steeped in ink smudges across silk in order to create a sense of flight; and, perhaps yet, of cunfa (‘crack technique’), whereby a tilted and loaded ink brush layers thick, broad strokes in order to evoke shadows and texture, often utilised to render nature itself.

    Zao’s concern with nature is to capture its state and environment as an emotional or experiential one rather than a literal one, and can be likened closely to the tradition in Chinese classical landscape painting of capturing the impression of nature, rather than a factual representation. Through this work Zao utilises colours to represent the sense of consolation, shelter and reprise, and incorporates the xieyi approach in Chinese ink paintings with the boldness of Western modernism.

    Later in the 1970s, Zao's works reveal a heightened manifestation of Taoist theories of nature and the spiritual qualities of water and air. 14.09.70 precisely embodies such preoccupations, evoking a vast, surreal sense of space whilst blurring the boundaries between myth and reality. Francois Jacob describes this as:

    "there is in Zao Wou-Ki’s painting, an endless questioning of the world. A determination to recreate it. Some of his paintings evoke the fury of origins, the giving birth to matter through energy, and the latest jolts of creative outbursts. Other ones display the teasing rebellion of the nebulas. Or the birth of light. Or the invention of water. Or the first morning ever, such as this marvelous little triptych with pinky white hues. And, implicitly, beyond the convulsions of matter, as if ready to burst, life … "

    Art critic Francois Cheng places Zao within the context of the historic progress of Chinese painting: 'Zao Wou-Ki's artistic destiny was not merely personal, it was closely related to the development and evolution of thousands of years of Chinese painting.’ Zao’s artistic prowess lies in his ability to straddle both ancient and the modern, the East and West, and it can only command our utmost admiration.

  • Catalogue Essay

    “我認為繪畫並不是一個中國問題、歐洲問題,或是美國問題,而是一個國際問題。因此,我認為中國畫和西方繪畫不應該分開而論;兩者應該被視為一個整體。對於外國人 [即任何非中國人]來說,素描是一項基本的技能;對中國人來說,書法筆法則是一項基本的技能。這些都是繪畫的基本技能,然而這兩種技能應該結合起來使用。我認為中國藝術與西方藝術並沒有衝突;它們應當相互補助,相得益彰。你不能說你畫中國畫,我畫西洋畫,將它們分開是沒有意義的。' - 趙無極


    《14.09.70》來自一位與趙無極有著幾十年深厚交情的法國私人收藏家。這位藏家於1970年左右首次在藝術家於Galerie de France畫廊的展覽中看到其作品,隨後在拜訪他的畫室時,被這件作品的美感所吸引,於是將它納入收藏。《14.09.70》此後一直典藏於這位私人藏家的家中,本次拍賣是這幅畫作首次現身於市場,呈現在世人眼前。


    同樣是在五十年代末期,各種藝術環境讓趙無極開始親自目睹日本的前衛藝術運動,在那裡他結識了菅井汲(Kumi Sugai)、堂本尚郎(Hisao Domoto)、森田子龍(Morita Shiryu),以及井上有一(Yuichi Inoue)等藝術家。於是他開始思考自己曾經接受過訓練的水墨和書法的傳統。剛至巴黎之初,為了避開「中國風」(chinoiseries)而躲避水墨畫,到1970年代初期趙無極則毅然而然地全身投入到中國水墨畫風格的創作中,而這一轉變也讓他更加深入地將各種創作技巧運用到包括油畫、平版印刷、水墨畫,以及水彩畫等各種媒材中。他將水墨層層疊加在紙上的技法,運用到以大量的松節油稀釋油畫顏料後所創作的作品中,以便在畫布表面進行添加或修改,來操控前景、中景以及背景之間的畫面,創造出西式的顏色結構和佈局的效果,然而在圖像上則同時充滿了稍縱即逝的光芒和奇妙的官感。

    詩人亨利·米修(Henri Michaux)在1970年代早期便極為支持趙無極回歸水墨畫的創作:「他向我展示了他用水墨如此巧妙地渲染其他[繪畫]。就好像煙霧將它們穿透,而不是墨水。哦!如此的驚喜!如此的愉悅!他的文化繼承由此重新點燃:畫中大自然的節奏,更優於自然,正如生活在世界那一邊的人們思想中所描繪的一樣。」

    「從樹木、河流、森林、山丘中抽離,但充滿了水龍捲、搖晃、噴射、衝動、滴水和透明的彩色岩漿擴張、衝出並且爆發。」 -亨利·米修


    趙無極對中國水墨媒介的精神繼承體現在他對色彩、單色調,以及對與水墨相仿的黑色之使用上。遠處的雲彩看似靜止,且因水氣而膨脹,而右下角的黑色筆觸則形成了作品的動態核心,彷彿一股能量正在開始猛烈地旋轉、吞併。正如勒內·查爾(René Char)所描述的那樣,「混沌停留懸空在荒野之中。在那裡,流浪的奧菲斯( Orpheus,希臘神話中的一位音樂家)的空靈和人間的咒語一沖而過。狂風暴雨般的劇變中,色彩的分佈組成了這一分界線的每一個元素。」



    20世紀70年代後期,趙無極的作品展示了其對道家自然理論以及水和空氣的無形精神美感之高度呈現。《14.09.70》準確地體現了這種專注,喚起了巨大、超現實的空間感,同時模糊了神話與現實之間的界限。法蘭索瓦‧賈克伯(Francois Jacob)將此描述為:「趙無極以畫作探索宇宙,同時決意重新創造,有的繪畫作品喚起宇宙初始的混沌,以能量造物,以及創造力爆發的石破天驚。有的作品展現星雲玩鬧戲耍、或是光的誕生、或是水之源頭、或是初露的清晨......畫中的粉紅白色調。還有,混沌之外隱約出現的,彷彿隨時蓄勢待發的,一股生命力……」

    藝術評論家Francois Cheng將趙無極置於中國繪畫歷史進程的背景之下:「趙無極的藝術使命不僅僅是他個人的,它與數千年中國繪畫的發展和演變都密切相關。」趙無極的藝術造詣在於他跨越古代和現代,東方和西方的能力,這足夠讓我們無限欽佩仰慕。

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Property from an Important Private French Collection


signed ‘Wou-Ki [in Chinese] ZAO’ lower right; further signed and titled ‘ZAO WOU-KI “14.9.70”’ on the reverse
oil on canvas
73.1 x 91.8 cm. (28 3/4 x 36 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1970, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki. This work will be referenced in the archive of the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki and will be included in the artist’s forthcoming catalogue raisonné prepared by Françoise Marquet and Yann Hendgen (Information provided by Fondation Zao Wou-Ki).

HK$9,000,000 - 12,000,000 

sold for HK$9,750,000

Contact Specialist

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019