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1970's

CHAR René 1975

CHAR René – Extract from "Le dos houleux du miroir" (The stormy backside of the mirror), foreword for the catalogue of the exhibition Zao Wou-Ki, 1971-1975 at the Galerie de France in Paris, Edition Galerie de France and Arts et Métiers Graphiques, Paris, France, 1975.

"May you forgive this introduction to painting, in relation to a private state of mind? My feelings towards Zao Wou-Ki’s work are threefold: a deep connection with the graphics of his early years. Color serves as a checkerboard scout, almost half nomadic. Shapes dutifully follow the artist’s hand, covering distances whose durable worth we learnt through a distant art. The renunciation to this initial dialogue leads to meeting a second chaos that we believe close to melting into a lost figure in surrounding deep cavities calling for it. However, this chaos remains suspended in the wilderness. There the ethereal and telluric spell of the travelling Orpheus breaks through. Every element forming the dividing line is the one behind the distribution of colors in a tempestuous upheaval. At last stands a prophecy whose reflection cannot take the reference to the mirror of a private libido. (…)"

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LAUDE Jean 1974

LAUDE Jean Extract from Zao Wou-Ki, La Connaissance Editions, Brussels, Belgium, 1974 (pp. 67-69).

(…) "Drips, splatters and discharges: the canvas or paper unevenly absorbs the coloring matter. In addition, the gesture is triggering off a series of events in the process, the movement whose scale and insistence had not been anticipated before it was started. Consequently, it can indeed be considered as random. However, it is true that the speed of conception inventing, at the same moment, its methods of execution, could absolutely not be attributed to the imperious appearance of hazard. Here is a man painting, his conscious mind focused on the act where all his abilities are intensely concentrated. Drips or splatters – when the coloring matter was propelled – will be described on the surface according to their impact and the degree of absorbency of the paper.

(…) Although Zao Wou-Ki’s painting is methodical and its development appears logical, nevertheless, it comprises elements disrupting and subverting the territories already conquered. However, such disruptions and subversions take place following a line of fracture that simultaneously separates his work from Chinese as well as Western tradition and unites both. Although violated, the Chinese tradition is all the more present. However, it is all the more present that Zao Wou-Ki has reconnected himself with it, not in terms of rules or transitory aspects exuded, but rather in the flow crossing the Chinese tradition, obvious in the heydays and underground when academism prevailed (…)."

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MICHAUX Henri 1970

MICHAUX Henri – Extract from « Trajet Zao Wou-Ki », (Zao Wou-Ki’s Journey), foreword for the new edition of the 1957 monograph Zao Wou-Ki by Claude Roy, Le Musée de Poche – Jacques Goldschmidt, Paris, 1970 (pp. 5-7).

‘’Zao Wou-Ki also left the practical world. However, his paintings have kept a certain amount of similarity with nature.  

It is here. It is not here. What we see cannot be it. It should be though.

Very different. It cannot be detailed anymore.

Nature captured from the block.

Always natural, warmer, more passionate. Telluric.

It has remained flexible.

Not peculiar, not exotic, fluid, painted with warm colors or rather, lights, streams of lights.

Deprived from trees, rivers, forests, hills, but full of waterspouts, jiggles, spurts, impulses, drips and diaphanous colored magma dilating, coming out and bursting forth.

It was called by new concerns, dramas and invasions.

Through nature, Zao Wou-Ki moves, shows himself, is depressed, revives, falls down, gets back on the horse, is enthusiastic, is a ‘for it’ or is all ‘against it’, is bustling with activity …, says what stifles him.

Through nature, without any hindrance, he can express himself, make really ample gestures, not these gestures merely colored with the painful human exasperation.

Through nature, in covenant with nature, one can experience more intensely what one used to experience alone. One is able, transcending any suffering, any liberated longing, to experience it once more with munificence, a stupendous munificence … without ridiculing oneself.

One borrows the extent, the depth of nature. One is able to live on a new scale.

In Zao Wou-Ki’s paintings, whose size is sometimes gigantic, suitable to the dimension of his current feelings, there are more and more powerful assumptions of earth – a magnifying transfer. Enormous masses must take off when time comes.

Such nature re-creates for Zao Wou-Ki a superb geological period.

Levitations, mixings and upheavals are dominant.

Zao Wou-Ki’s paintings – like everyone knows – have one virtue: they are beneficial."

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SCHNEIDER Pierre 1972

SCHNEIDER Pierre - Extract from « Dialogue with Zao Wou-Ki », in Les Dialogues du Louvre (Louvre Dialogues), Denoël, Paris, France, 1972 (p. 319).

(…) "He evokes a leaden sky and a dark grey sea, so dissimilar that the horizon seems to ratify a hopeless divide. However, a sudden and intangible condensation makes them connected and the movement starts again, the cycle of life is safe. Zao Wou-Ki knows how to capture the moments of concentration and dilution, delicate and accurate as a precision scale. Without them, everything would be duality, ruptures, inertia. The ethereal landscape becomes distilled into a shower of signs. Are we able to read them? No, already they have turned into the folds of a fluid universe. On the way, the color lightens up, until turning into light only and the gesture becomes heavy until being merely a shape. Sometimes, the stroke is long, diluted and serene. Sometimes it is short, exaggerate and heavy. Here, the brush seems to be held from the wrist, there at arm length. The heat wave sends towards the sky foam that soaks up the sun, becomes pearls, falls back and merges again with the water. And the main thing is not the aggregate of such states or one of them, but rather, their ability to perpetual change. (…)"

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