Zao Wou-Ki - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Sunday, November 25, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection
    Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 7 April 2007, lot 15
    Private Collection, Asia
    Christie's, Hong Kong, 29 November 2015, lot 452
    Private Collection, Asia
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘Wou-Ki pours ink onto the hollowed stone slab...He plucks a brush with a white tuft measuring a dozen or so centimetres…He first dips the tuft in water...then takes it to the stone and soaks it in ink. The sheet of paper is laid on the ground; onto the wooden floor of the studio, [and] Wou-Ki kneels down next to it.

    “You must,” he says, “lay out the space.”

    The brush, the hand, the wrist, the arm, the body: I have never seen such a posture; a binding posture. The brush, the hand, the wrist become agents of their own, a collective painter independent from the painter, and energetically guide him, in head and heart, as Zao approaches the paper like a pendulum held at arm’s length. The hand is suspended in the air as much as it is suspended from the wrist. But already, the brush has touched, rolled, dotted, left a large stroke, dots, a cloud-like curve. Wou-Ki stands up, returns, bends downwards. The paper reveals areas of glowing black and still; in others yet, the black lightens, spreads around: it looks like he is pushing forward. Wou-Ki leans forward, extends his hand, draws ripples. “Even with this thick brush,” he says, “you can still capture fineness.” It all comes together on the paper. It is impossible to amend: you can only add, but you cannot remove.’
    (adapted from Bernard Noël, ‘Le Vide et l’Encre’ (‘Void and Ink’) in Paris Musées, Zao Wou-ki: L’espace est silence, Paris, 2018, p. 120)

    Zao Wou-ki’s works on paper reveal a more delicate, contemplative side of the artist. The following lots trace the progression of his aesthetic towards works on paper over a period of 40 years. While Untitled (1951) reflects the beginnings of his transition from figurative into abstraction, drawing inspiration from Paul Klee’s works and the artist’s travels, Untitled (1956) sees Zao’s continued exploration of the realm of abstraction. In this work, Zao also rediscovers and returns to his cultural roots through the use of ancient Chinese bronze and oracle bone inscriptions, as depicted through the small glyphs scattered against bright blue hues. Works from 1975 to 1995 saw a renewed interest in traditional Chinese ink painting, depicting high mountains and flowing waters. His compositions become less flooded with colour, and abstract landscapes take shape in the form of practiced brushstrokes across an empty background. Though Zao still kept to abstraction, the two ink works convey a more raw and unhurried approach of his ink aesthetic. Zao displays a higher sensitivity in his treatment of space, allowing his movements to take over the narrative of his works. Throughout his career, Zao illustrates this constant dialogue between his cultural roots and his western exposure, and these works on paper convey a more delicate side of his spiritual creativity in merging classical Chinese landscape painting and Western abstraction. Considering Zao’s singular devotion to ink in the latter stages of his life, these four early works are perhaps indicative of his later dedication to the medium.

Property from an Important Private Asian Collection



signed and dated 'Wou-Ki [in Chinese] ZAO 51' lower right
ink and watercolour on paper
30 x 22.5 cm. (11 3/4 x 8 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1951, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki.

HK$600,000 - 800,000 

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20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 November 2018