HENDGEN Yann, from « L’infinie complexité d’un bleu dans le minuscule reflet d’une feuille sur l’eau » (The infinite complexity of a blue in the tiny reflection of a leaf on the water), in Zao Wou-Ki. Couleurs et mots (Words and colors), Le Cherche Midi Edition, Paris, 2013 (pp. 95-99).
(…) “Texts about the painting of Zao Wou-Ki dating back to the 2000s are relatively rare. Most of the critics have often confined Zao Wou-Ki in what has been called in a rather artificial way the ‘second Ecole de Paris’. That is how the perception of his work has, for quite some time, only existed through references to the key period of the 1950s to the 1970s. His paintings from the 1980s have often been considered as a continuation of this period, nearly as a conclusion. Then it is a whole generation of artists, and with them their creations, that have been put aside, as if their painting was already accomplished and their contribution to the history of art had come to an end (…).
And when, in 2008, he decides that he will no longer paint in oil, it is a final decision. From then on he refuses to go to his studio. This space, he had especially created at the beginning of the 1960s then modernized and upgraded in the 1990s suddenly loses its raison d’être. For him, it disappears. It is also because he gave painting a new dimension. Similar to the impressionists, he decided to ‘set up his easel’ in the wild. And this reversal has emerged in the mid-2000. (…).
From then on, nature makes a big comeback in his work. One might very well imagine his Le Soir à l’Hôtel du Palais (An evening at the Hôtel du Palais), painted in 2004, as a gorgeous seascape. However, after taking a closer look, it is not a view of a beach he proposes but a total immersion in the elements, abolishing the border between the air and the water. One must not take into account the things providing him with a pretext – bonsai, fishes, orchids – but what both his artist’s eye and hand make of them, the transformation process he puts them through to reach a refined rebirth.” (…)