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1980's

ROY Claude 1988

ROY Claude – Extract from Zao Wou-Ki, Les Grands Peintres collection, Cercle d’Art Editions, Paris, France, 1988 (p. 102).

"Chinese? French? The East? The West?  

The truth is, Zao Wou-Ki lives in one country only.

He has been living in Zaowoukia for numerous years.

More and more daring, lighter and lighter, he buried himself in it deeper and deeper.

At his beginnings, he met people and he met some cats.

The postcards in the shape of lithographs or paintings that he used to send us from over there showed houses, chickadees, men and women, and even flower vases. There were little men, bell towers, birds without passport, teapots and even several deer with antlers. In one word, everything you can meet in a city.

However, little by little, Wou-Ki moved towards wilder and wilder regions. He lost his way in the extreme edges of Zaowoukia. Fearless, he went to the ends of the land.

At first, he used to work on patterns along the streets of the cities, in the harbors, along the gondola canals and bell tower squares.

These days, as the Kritikdars (art critics) would put it, “He set his easel in the lost corners of the most remote provinces, a place where Eastern Zaowoukia borders the singing mist banks of the Mirage province, inhabited by the people of dreams”.

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LEYMARIE Jean 1986

LEYMARIE Jean – Extract from Zao Wou-Ki, Cercle d’Art Editions, Paris, France, 1986 (pp. 48-49).

(…) "In May 1985, Zao Wou-Ki accepted the pressing invitation from his former school and went back to Hangzhou to teach painting and drawing for a month, whereas his wife taught at the same time history of modern art and museology. It was an unexpected and fascinating experiment, although exhausting when you give all you have, as during the adventure of the Salzburg seminar in 1970. During his journey, the artist stopped in Singapore in order to decide on the location of the oversize painting ordered by Pei for a building under construction in the city. The painting was to be hung in the main lobby. Zao Wou-Ki undertook this exceptional triptych of 2.80 meters high and 10 meters long (3+ 4+ 3) with elation and without any break during the whole summer from June until October, in the retreat of his countryside studio near Fontainebleau. This three-part painting characterized by its dialectical composition around the centre line represents, without any doubt, a sovereign accomplishment in his work. I had the opportunity to see this piece soon after its completion and, with a necessary backward step, I was subjected to its irradiating power, that the most faithful copy would not be able to convey. From the vast central hearth and its solar source with copper glow, suspended blue and green layers with fearless olive green and ultramarine blue, emerald and cobalt hues appear by contrast and dilate towards the borders. The immense energy shuffling and unifying the melting space is combined with the tremendous richness and variety of the molecular texture, lines, dots, spots, hatchings, rubbings and granulations. (…)

This book has no conclusion because Zao Wou-Ki’s outstanding work remains endlessly open in its physical splendor and spiritual plenitude. With a freer and freer force, it comes to terms with the complete symbiosis between the West and the East, energy and contemplation."

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JACOB François 1986

JACOB François – Extract from the foreword of the catalogue of the exhibition Zao Wou-Ki – Paintings 1980-1985 at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery Edition, New York, United States, 1986.

"A perspective still open to everything possible. A condition preceding the world. A road leading, not to completion but to the origin, to the edges of what does not yet exist. This is where Zao Wou-Ki’s paintings lead us, towards a space still undetermined but still pending, hesitant and gliding for a last second before shifting into what will later become a governing order.  

(…) There is in Zao Wou-ki’s painting, an endless questioning of the world. A determination to recreate it. Some of his paintings evoke the fury of origins, the giving birth to matter through energy, and the latest jolts of creative outbursts. Other ones display the teasing rebellion of the nebulas. Or the birth of light. Or the invention of water. Or the first morning ever, such as this marvelous little triptych with pinky white hues. And, implicitly, beyond the convulsions of matter, as if ready to burst, life … "

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CHENG François 1981

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’ (…)".

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