Zao Wou-Ki

Date : 1976

Medium : Painting

Size : 85 x 70 cm

Regarding canvasses as the pages of a painter’s diary, Zao Wou-Ki uses the date on which they were executed as their title. There is a truly poetic sense emanating from his evocations of subtly lit, “atmospheric” abstract landscapes, about which Henri Michaux once wrote: “revealing while disassembling, breaking the direct line or making it tremble, musing and tracing the detours of the rambling and the spidery scrawl of the dreaming mind, that is what Zao Wou-Ki loves, and suddenly with the same festive air that enlivens Chinese villages and country scenes, the picture appears, quivering joyfully and somewhat comically in an orchard of signs.”

© Adagp, Paris, 1976

The guide

The paintings by Zao Wou Ki present us with vast and colourful landscapes. Zao Wou Ki brings together the painting tradition of his homeland China and those of the West. As the artists says, “Cézanne helps me to bring out the Chinese tradition in my painting”. In his work, Zao Wou Ki has preserved the traditional Chinese taste for landscapes and signs, but gradually moves away from depicting reality, and towards more abstract and greatly poetic art. The title 19.10.76 is simply a reference to the date the artist felt the work had been completed. The vertical format of the work is reminiscent of Chinese calligraphy. It is further emphasised in the shape created by the colour that has run asymmetrically across the canvas. In this painting, the artist depicts vast and colourful fields. The bright yellow has been covered with a diluted brown and black. The colours used are similar to the natural elements such as the earth, rock, light and sun. There is also another influence of traditional Chinese art present in the work. Notice the visible strokes of the paintbrush. In some places the painter’s strokes are repeated several times. In the centre of the painting, the densest part, the painter has sketched lively marks that are reminiscent of the art of calligraphy the artist has studied. Between two different worlds, the work of Zao Wou Ki is open to those who allow themselves to be seduced by reflection and contemplation.