2013年9月7日 星期六

2013年8月10日 星期六

Why Not Return Home, Beautiful Phoenix? ---- about Teh-Chun CHU

Translated by Ann Lee from the Taiwan blog “Elsewhere of Elsewhere”
Teh-Chun CHU (1920~) was born in China, temporarily taught in Taiwan for six years, mainly works in France. Chu was the first Chinese artist who was elected as a member of l’Academie des Beaux-Arts de France. Rouge, La Pluie de Petales sur le Village, Blanc, le Nuage Au-Dessus de la Maison (as follows), Christie’s Hong Kong sold for about US$ 3.2 million in May 2006. This year (2008), from September 19th, National Museum of History, Taiwan, will hold a two-month sole exhibition, Teh-Chun CHU 88 Retrospective. We salut to and wish the exhibition a great success.

Rouge, la pluie de petales sur le village. Blanc, le nuage au-dessus de la maison, Teh-Chun CHU  130*195cm  1960

The artist used rich colors to depict lively rhythm of light in the above-mentioned painting, which integrated stick and block-like color of Nicolas de Staël (1914-1955) into strong flow of Chinese calligraphy. The straightforward composition of this master piece has reached a perfect balance. At my first time looking at Chu's works, I was positive that his art was related to Staël. Later on, I was very glad to prove my assumption by reading Chu's own words from his album, saying that Staël’s art was so influential that Chu decided to turn to abstraction from figuration. I will compose another article regarding Staël's artwork which I deeply love.

Chu composed a few figurative paintings in his early days, then turn to exploring abstraction, such as follows, La Source, 1965. Its composition was based on traditional Chinese painting. The flow of space was expressed by colors, but calligraphy in the bottom half was slightly unnatural, which was further developed in later days.

Chu once said, “The renown Chinese painter, Kuan FAN, has mentioned “A Master’s Mind,” meaning an artwork is an expression of the artist's imagination, personality and accomplishment.” “A Master’s Mind” is in fact “Abstraction”, only at that time our ancestors didn’t use the word “abstraction.” It is fair to say that La Source is actually the abstract form of Fan's famous work, Travellers among Mountains and Streams.

Since Chu named this work La Source, it was very obvious that the artist made a statement about the origin of his culture. It was a statement of the start point of his aesthetic exploration, where his art originally came from. Even though it was still a bit awkward at that point, by reason of the momentum was constrained by the composition. Soon afterwards, due to Chu's effort and talent, he promptly reached maturity and walked on the road to a great artist, independently.

La Source  Teh-Chun CHU 1965

Da-Yu WU, teacher of Chu, has said, “Painting requires sincereness and fullness. Do not show off or try to impress people. During your six-year at college, it is enough if you can paint one complete work.” These words became Chu's mottos for life, and sincereness grew into the soul of his artwork. Transparence Glacier (as follows), which is a composition based on traditional Chinese painting, and Chu showed us the rhythm between light and dark colors, as well as the drip similar to “catkin floating and swirling in the wind”, not simply “throwing salt into the sky.” We viewer can easily senses the transparence of the fragile, cold air by looking at this painting. If you look at this painting at the hottest summer time in complete silence, you may feel falling into a freezing ice world. It may be quite economical since air condition is not necessary anymore.

Transparence Glacier  Teh-Chun CHU  1987

Then it comes to Pureté Originelle (as follows). Chu has got rid of the composition of traditional Chinese paintings, and calligraphy has integrated into the work completely. Colors come forward to us with rhythm. The work is both complete and smooth, soulful and humble. Real and unreal elements resonate with each other in harmony. In the beginning, spirit arises from for its appearance, but with the spirit, the appearance is then forgotten. In the end, both spirit and appearance disappear, everything is left but Pureté Originelle, resulting an abstract oil painting with an Eastern soul.

Pureté Originelle Teh-Chun CHU 1997

Chu’s mastery at the cross roads of abstractive mind and figurative emotion is shown in Emotion Suggérée (as follows). The artwork perfectly links Eastern mind, Western abstract skill, Chinese calligraphy and ink painting, creating a powerful, brand new personal language. Tradition lives vividly in creation, and Chu himself has become a grand tradition, who stands side by side with all great Western masters.

Emotion Suggérée shows the essence of emotion, the very natural stage, on the instant of our heartbeats, not the conclusion resulting from outside influences. Whether it is a comedy or tragedy? Perhaps it is too late by the time we realize the sensation.

Comparing Chu's own powerful calligraphy, moving ink paintings and oil paintings, it is obvious to tell his profound aesthetics, grand accomplishment, and solid standing. Except great wisdom, aesthetics can never be reached, which is the only road to perfection. Only when artists truly understand the tradition can they create and innovate; only when they do not hide their own origin can they shine powerful strength from their core.

Emotion Suggérée  Teh-Chun CHU 1998

If we compare Chu to Sanyu, Sanyu has no such strong will of creation. Sanyu is a born-to-be, natural artist, while Chu is a master of art. They are both top tier artists, but Chu carries heavier burden of mission and sense of history. Guan-Zhong WU and Chu are both in my A+ list, so I will skip comparing the two.

In fact, to acquire aesthetic taste and to make fair critic, we need to be able to tell the minor differences between A+ artists, however, at this moment, Asian art is still in a chaos stage where running horses and milking cows are commingling in the same ranch. Our first step of work is to label these horses from cows, than we will be able to discuss who is indeed the racing horse running in the speed of light.

Chu’s art is an amazing, sacred mountain with no fault to pick, but I have a question nothing related to art: In ancient China, Confucius wished some kings would apply his philosophy to rule the people, hence he wondered and suffered in different kingdoms.  Confucius was expelled by King LU, his footprints were extinguished by King WEI, insulted by King SONG, no way to go at Kingdom SHANG and CHOU, and suffered famine at Kingdom CHEN and TSAI.  For all these humiliations and difficulties, did Confucius merely pursue for a Prime Minister of a kingdom?  Chu’s life is somehow similar to Confucius’, since Chu left his homeland for decades, encountered many difficulties and finally became the first Asian artist of l’Academie des Beaux-Arts de France. Even Confucius once sighed that he should come back to guide his talented fellowmen pupils at hometown.  Why don’t the beautiful phoenix return Greater China to devote himself for education?  Holding exhibitions in Taiwan is surely not enough. The Asian art society, whether in Taiwan or in China, urgently need Chu’s teaching and advice. Of course, the art society in today's Asia is incredibly poor, but that is why we desperately need a beautiful phoenix like Chu return his hometown.