CHENG François – Extract from the foreword of the catalogue of the exhibition Zao Wou-Ki at the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais in Paris, France, 1981.
Text edited and completed for the catalogue of the exhibition Zao Wou-Ki at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, Éditions du Jeu de Paume, Paris, France, 2003.
"Zao Wou-Ki ’s artistic destiny is not only personal; it is closely linked to the upcoming of a several thousand years old pictorial tradition. This fundamental fact, far from lessening the value of the artist’s personal quest, leads instead to making it more moving to our eyes. In fact, thanks to this work, a long expectation in which the Chinese painting had remained for over a century seems to come to an end, for the first time, a true symbiosis took place that, from way back, was meant to take place between China and the West.
Presumably, the critics were right to mention some kind of miracle when they recalled this decisive moment when, right in the middle of this century, the painter came to settle in Paris from his distant country. Miraculously, he instantly found himself and devoted all his time to a creation, the immediate density of which still amazes us today. (How not to evoke here Victor Segalen’s parallel example who, straight after arriving to China, declared: “Here I have found my place and my background”? Follow then a long and fervent quest during which the painter rediscovered the genius of his own culture all the while attempting to absorb what makes the greatness of Western art. Later in 1961, he summarized his progression as follows: ‘Although the influence from Paris in my training as an artist is incontestable, I am adamant that I gradually rediscovered China as my character was getting stronger. In my recent paintings, my Chinese culture is expressed in an innate manner. Paradoxically, I owe to Paris this return to my deep-rooted origins’ (…)".