ALECHINSKY Pierre - « Rire jamais loin » (Laughter is never far), foreword from the catalogue of the exhibition Zao Wou-Ki – Entre ciel et terre. Aquarelles et encres de Chine (Zao Wou-Ki – Between sky and earth. Watercolors and India inks) at the Fondation Folon in La Hulpe, La Pierre d’Alun Editions, Brussels, Belgium, 2009 (pp. 5-6).

"After a striking retort, Wou-Ki is in and out of my Souvenotes. The scene evokes (from a distance in terms of location and time) the image and its duplicate. In other words, reality and illusion.  Graphic representations of a visual remembrance, which might become the page promised to my old painter friend for his forthcoming exhibition… Let us first check the content of the memory, more over, I do not know in which catalogue his paintings were confronted (this struck me), to gorgeous pictures of Chinese mountains. I inquired. His archivist is sending me some copies. Well! They do not match with the memory, or with what I wrote back in 1977 (using the third person). I read again to be sure:

He paints [P.A.] on a drawing board: a door laid flat on a horrible pedestal table in ceramics and wrought iron. However, it is the right height. A rental villa with recommendation notes stuck on the meters, cupboards and fridge. The bedroom walls are getting covered with watercolours. The window frames the sea where, in this purple morning, small islands emerge. L’Îlot de la Vache (Cow’s island). Taming of the said cow. The wind in the bedroom lifts watercolours / curtains. The family discovers Corsica, hikes in the countryside and it is exactly the way I imagine China, Mr. Fenouillard [French comic written at the end of the 19th century] would say. Besides, Zao Wou-Ki published similar rocks in a book about his work, that’s exactly right, Pierre complements. « Exactly right, Wou-Ki confirmed, I took these photographs while wandering in Corsica. »

 

Tens of years away from Wou-Ki’s laughter, the image does not offer any mirror effect. The Corsican landscape has not replaced anything. The landscape is indeed from the other side of the world. Pictures of China taken by Agnès Varda.

Why on earth the archivist has not been able to find the memory that I kept unaware for all these years.

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Nabokov invited me to sit on a bench, after letting me to believe that this was Sebastian Knight (his hero)’s favourite bench. I was merely a reader under his spell and I had to wait until the end, wait for a long time, before I was told that this bench was absolutely not the one.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

This – Corsican or Chinese- laughter was as convincing as a right gesture, increased by a paintbrush.

Today I am watching Rouge très très fort (Red very very red) a short documentary film by Richard Texier, where one can see Wou-Ki who, without paying any attention to the movie camera, leans over a sheet of paper laid on the floor, despite his old age.

Hand holding the paintbrush!

He is singing, taking ownership of this virgin whiteness. I am listening to his voice of encouragement, of course accompaniment. Half cry half crackle.

Guttural painting is following the rhythm of his breathing. A limit of time that the wise man sometimes enjoys. All his youth comes back from times long gone and lays on the white sheet. 

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