Create your first list.

A way to share and manage lots.

  • Condition Report

    Request Condition Report
  • Provenance

    Galerie de France, Paris
    Private Collection, Paris (acquired from the above in 1969)
    Cornette de Saint-Cyr, Paris, 4 April 2011, lot 8
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Hong Kong, Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery, Rue du Moulin Vert, 9 May - 16 June 2018

  • Catalogue Essay

    "Forests, rocks, sky, waters – landscape is the nudity of the universe itself." (Dominique de Villepin, ‘Into the Labyrinth of Light’, Zao Wou-Ki, 1935-2010, 2017. p.28)

    Over the course of the 1960s, Zao Wou-Ki’s international fame reached unprecedented levels whilst his painting underwent another transformation, reaching a new pinnacle. In 1964 he finally obtained French nationality, thanks to the intervention of the Minister of Culture André Malraux himself. Over the course of the decade, his French gallerist—Myriam Prévot at Galerie de France— organised exhibitions in galleries and museums at home and abroad, expanding his recognition. Amongst them was a major retrospective of 64 paintings which took place in 1965 at the Museum Folkwang in Essen. Samuel Kootz, the New York dealer who was one of the first to champion Abstract Expressionism, exhibited Zao’s works in the USA every year from the start of their collaboration in 1958. Although this ended in 1966 when the gallery closed, it gave Zao valuable exposure to Abstract Expressionist art and resonated with Zao’s art strongly. Together with Chan May-Kam, his second wife, Zao travelled intensively and engaged with the most successful living painters across Europe and the USA, the couple becoming an integral part of the artistic intelligentsia during this decade.

    During this period, Zao’s style reached a new level of maturity. Balancing the virtues of Western paintings in their use of colours and tones with the essence of traditional Chinese ink landscapes from the Song and the Yuan Dynasties, the result is an image of implicit scenic beauty, evoking the four elements and natural phenomena in magnificent abstract landscapes:

    Planes rise up, masses as well: sea mountain, sky. Even forms, those craquelure trees. You have the sense of a reconciled landscape, … that brings to the surface both an Italian-style perspective and the drifting mists of Song Landscapes quivering on tissue paper.” (Dominique de Villepin, ‘Into the Labyrinth of Light’, Zao Wou-Ki, 1935-2010, 2017. p.26)

    The English Romantic painter Joseph Mallord William Turner was also an important source of inspiration for 20th century Chinese artists including Zao Wou-ki, Chu Teh-Chun and T’ang Haywen (Zeng Haiwen). As seen in his most famous series, The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, Turner’s works focused increasingly on the atmospheric qualities of sky, sea wind and fire, paving the way for the Impressionists and ostensibly influencing Zao’s unique treatment of light and atmosphere, particularly in his works from the late 1960s and the early 1970s:

    "His progression is the same as J.M.W. Turner’s, the eye and hand returning again and again to the same spot. Subjects become themes, the laboratories in which pure light is distilled, an epiphany of colours following the thread of the world back to creation. (…) What is offered to view is the apotheosis of light. I find a deep affinity between these two artistic pursuits, Turner’s and Zao Wou-ki’s, which took place more than a century apart." (Dominique de Villepin, ‘Into the Labyrinth of Light’, Zao Wou-Ki, 1935-2010, 2017. p. 22

    In the present work, Zao’s vigorous brushwork illustrates the battle between the four elements: fire, earth, air and water. To balance this epic encounter, the painting is ingenuously divided into three horizontal bands which give a sense of stability to the central swirling composition. The use of monochromatic tones of beiges, browns and white reflect nature: peeking through the fire are sweeping blue brushstrokes evocative of tumbling mountainside streams or, if we refer to Turner’s The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, the dark marine sky peeking through the flames. If the 1950s were associated with the Oracle Bones period and the appearance of signs in Zao’s works, in the 1960s Zao starts to pursue his calligraphic experiments in a different manner, recreating the atmosphere of ink paintings by adding turpentine to thin out the heavy consistency of his oil paints and offer him greater freedom to create highly translucent washes or layers with a visual effect akin to the flowing smoothness of ink applied by the Chinese literati masters onto rice paper. As such, the lower part of the work illustrates the traditional ink painter’s textured brushstrokes. The work also displays 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. Also visible in the lower right quadrant, is the use of the cunfa technique (‘crack technique’) whereby a tilted and loaded ink brush layers thick, broad strokes in order to evoke shadows and texture, often used to render nature itself. In the Record of Famous Painters from all the Dynasties, Tang Dynasty art historian Zhang Yanyuan elaborates on the notion of manipulating ink to produce tones that correspond to the five colours. This pentad of tones includes ‘scorched ink’, ‘concentrated ink’, ‘dense ink’, ‘light ink’ and ‘clear ink’, which could each be further varied in degrees of wetness and concentration. In the present work, Zao has grasped the possibilities of the Chinese ink medium and recast them with a sense of immediacy using a Western medium.

    Zao Wou-ki’s achievement lies in the fact that he, as a Chinese artist, brought up immersed in Oriental art forms, was able to draw from his own cultural foundation and integrate ink wash painting, Chinese-style landscapes, the xieyi approach (‘the freehand brush’), to create sensitive contrasts of traditional calligraphy with the boldness of Western Modernism. For Westerners, Zao’s paintings fulfilled their expectations of the imagined East, but at the same time Zao was celebrated by the Chinese as an ‘Orientalist’ in his approach and his interpretation of Western abstraction. To achieve such bewitching works of art, Zao unites the spirit of both worlds, casting ‘his signs onto the canvas like so many divination sticks; he shows us the cracks in the fiery shells of tortoises, his spells, by twists and turns, close in on us in these paintings’. (Dominique de Villepin, ‘Into the Labyrinth of Light’, Zao Wou-Ki, 1935-2010, 2017, pp. 36-37).

  • Catalogue Essay

    森林、岩石、天空、水 —— 風景是宇宙自身的裸體畫。(多米尼克·德·維爾潘,< 進入光之迷宮>,《趙無極,1935-2010年》,2017 年,28 頁)

    在1960 年代,趙無極的藝術經歷蛻變,在國際上的聲譽也達到新的高峰。1964 年,他在法國文化部長安德烈·馬爾羅的親自協助下,終於獲得法國國籍。在隨後的十年,趙無極的法國畫廊代理,法國畫廊的Myriam Prévot 在法國和國際的畫廊與博物館為他舉辦展覽,包括1965 年在德國埃森弗柯望博物館舉辦的大型回顧展,共展出64 幅畫作。森姆·庫茲是最早推廣抽象表現主義藝術的紐約畫商之一,他自1958 年起每年都為趙無極在美國辦展,直到1966 年他的畫廊關閉為止,這讓趙無極得到接觸抽象表現主義藝術的珍貴機會,對其藝術啟發不小。趙無極與第二任妻子陳美琴一同旅

    「地平面升起,連同觀眾的視角:大海、高山、天空。甚至是形狀,那些龜裂樹木。你能感受到和諧的風景,… 畫面既呈現意大利風格的透視,也有宋代山水的靈氣,在宣紙上顫動。」(多米尼克·德·維爾潘,<進入光之迷宮>,《趙無極,1935-2010年》,2017 年,26 頁)

    英國浪漫主義畫家透納對一眾二十世紀中國畫家帶來不少重要的創作靈感,趙無極、朱德群和曾海文等人都曾受到啟發。透納最著名的系列《燃燒的國會大廳》便非常著重天空、海風和火的氛圍特質,奠定隨後印象派畫風和趙無極對光與氣的獨特處理手法,特別是在他1960 年代末到1970 年代初的作

    他的作畫過程與透納一樣,眼睛和手一次次地回到同一點。所畫對象成為主題,純粹的光線經提煉,顏色盡顯,隨著世界的線索回到天地創造之時。(…)呈現眼前的是神化的理想光線。我在透納和趙無極兩位藝術家之間找到一種深刻的相似性,雖兩人的創作相差百餘年。」(多米尼克·德·維爾潘,< 進入光之迷宮>,《趙無極,1935-2010年》,2017 年,22 頁)

    趙無極在此作品中以蒼勁力豐沛的筆觸呈現出火、土、氣和水四個元素間的纏鬥,為平衡它們間壯盛的會合,畫面巧妙地分成三個橫向部分,為中央眩目的構圖提供一絲穩定性。米黃、棕色和白色色調反映出大自然的顏色:火焰背後,連綿的藍色筆觸猶如山邊翻滾的河流,觀透納的《燃燒的國會大廳》,熊熊烈火後面也露出一片深藍的天空。如果說1950 年代是趙無極「甲骨文」系列和符號的時代,那麼1960 年代的趙無極則開始以一種不同的方法繼續他的書法實驗,在厚重的油彩中加入松節油稀釋,重現水墨畫韻味,給予他更大的自由度,創造透明的渲染和類似於中國文人在宣紙上形成流暢墨跡的視覺效果。此作品的下半部仿佛傳統水墨質感一般,畫面更呈現出書法「飛白」技法,筆刷輕輕蘸墨,快速拖過畫面,形成跳躍感。畫面右下角可見書法皴法,墨汁飽滿的筆刷傾斜畫出寬厚筆跡,產生陰影和質感,體現大自然之貌。唐代藝術史學家張彥遠著《歷代名畫記》中,講到用墨色之深淺代表五色,分別名為焦、濃、重、淡、清,各色之濃淡深淺又再可細分。趙無極通過此作捕捉到中國水墨的各種可能性,以西方媒材再現其神采。

    趙無極的藝術成就在於,作為一名中國藝術家,他沉浸在東方藝術形式中,能夠借鑒自己的文化基礎,並結合水墨、中式山水,寫意筆法,以創造出傳統書法與西方現代主義的鮮明對比。 對西方人來說,趙無極的繪畫達到了他們對想像中的東方期望,與此同時,趙無極在其創作方式和對西方抽象的詮釋中被中國人譽為“東方主義者”。 為了獲得如此超然境界,趙無極結合了兩個世界的精神,將他的創作標誌,像運用占卜棒一樣投射幻化於畫布之上。 他向我們展示了如龜殼裂縫般的油彩效果,他的咒語璇轉跳躍在這些畫中,並向我們靠近。 (多米尼克·德·維爾潘,“進入光之迷宮”, 《趙無極,1935-2010年》,2017年。第36-37頁)。

Select Language




Property from a Distinguished Hong Kong Collection


signed ‘Wou-Ki [in Chinese] ZAO.’ lower right; further signed, titled and dated ‘ZAO WOU-KI “29.5.68. 31.10.68"’ on the reverse
oil on canvas
81 x 100 cm. (31 7/8 x 39 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1968, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki.

HK$28,000,000 - 38,000,000 

Place Advance Bid
Contact Specialist
Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019