MARCHESSEAU Daniel - Extract from « Zao Wou-Ki, l’artiste de l’Est sur la montagne de l’Ouest » (Zao Wou-Ki, the artist from the East on the Western mountain), catalogue of the exhibition Zao Wou-Ki, peintures, œuvres sur papier, céramiques (Zao Wou-Ki, paintings, works on paper, ceramics) 1947-2007 at the Nemours Château-Musée, Somogy Editions, Paris, France, 2007 (p. 21).
(…) "The poet Shitao wrote: « If one uses the Unique stroke of a paintbrush as a benchmark, then it becomes possible to take part in the metamorphosis of the Universe, the sound and shapes of the hills and rivers, to measure the remote immensity of the earth, to gauge the dark secrets of the clouds and fog». Zao Wou-Ki is familiar with his paraphrases about the landscape. However, besides his non-figurative paintings on canvas and paper, the cosa mentale (mental thing) which illuminates in depth the deposit of pigment, is emerging. Silence inhabits the perceptible quiver of the skin of the painting, vibrating with a tactile sensuality, invisible although present like the diluted lights at dawn.
His first return to China (1972) and his meeting with Françoise (1973) brought Zao Wou-Ki the peace of his identity after a long exile and the fulfillment of a new love. In the Paris studio like on the countryside, he started to work on oversize paintings and polyptychs in tribute to his masters of the thought (Malraux in 1976, Monet in 1991, Michaux in 2000, Riopelle in 2003 and Cézanne in 2005). In such paintings, the full and empty figures, dripping of secret forces, burning at the source of the echo, can be read in the violently colored perspectives.
His introduction in the gallery Pierre Matisse (New York, 1979), the tribute devoted to him by Jean Leymarie at the Grand Palais (Paris, 1981), the opening of his oversize wash tints for the architect I.M. Pei on the site of the Fragrant Hills near Beijing (1982) and the exhibitions in China and Japan (1983) attest of Zao Wou-Ki’s international recognition by the museums and the media and the respect provided by his native country.
In the past nearly thirty years, there have been numerous retrospectives of his work in the whole world whereas his paintings seemed to reach, with his maturity, an entwined fulfillment through his enlightened metamorphosis and his more intimate rhythms. The magnitude of space in a discursive all over reveals the sources of his inspiration, broadcasts full figures outlined by empty shapes and punctuations delineating torsions. Thus, the observation of his paintings calls for daydreaming, perception and effusion.
A welcome stroke of luck? Predestination? A guiding principle? The Chinese Wou-Ki character means « limitless »."