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2010's

DE VILLEPIN Dominique 2015

DE VILLEPIN Dominique, from « La lumière et le souffle » (The light and the breath), in Zao Wou-Ki et les poètes (Zao Wou-Ki and the poets),  Albin Michel Editions, Paris, 2015 (p. 14).

(…) Zao Wou-Ki had a talent for friendship, the skill to refuse clans and cliques, to place himself from the start out of any power relationship in the truth of the human, as expressed by the mighty embrace of his laughter. Three rare talents were combined in a single person, being able to admire, able to be selective and to enjoy sharing, that opened for him the path of his life as a man, enabled him to live in a city he only dreamed from afar where people spoke an unknown language. How has he ever been able to always establish strong links with the best, right upon his arrival in Paris. When Françoise amazed asks him this question, he answers by a merry mystery. But what a confidence he needed to be able to become the friend of the most brilliant artists, even when no one knew them yet! Painters like Sam Francis, Jean-Paul Riopelle or Norman Blum but also musicians like Edgar Varese, poets or doctors. No, no one has ever been to admire better than he did. He was gifted with such a quiet confidence to be able not to sink into the comparison!  It needed the free rooting of an uprooted man, of someone who knows where he comes from, but who, far from his origins has to metamorphoses, reinvent himself, find his innermost self. To admire is to find in the other what can nourish one’s own conception of humanity. To accept to metamorphose oneself in contact with the other to enrich from this contact. The strength of admiration widens the span of the exchange. How many poets, illustrated by Zao Wou-Ki, would have at once recognized in this word their feeling towards the painter, as Char did, talking about his ‘admiring friendship’.” (…)

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HENDGEN Yann 2013

HENDGEN Yann, from « L’infinie complexité d’un bleu dans le minuscule reflet d’une feuille sur l’eau » (The infinite complexity of a blue in the tiny reflection of a leaf on the water), in Zao Wou-Ki. Couleurs et mots (Words and colors), Le Cherche Midi Edition, Paris, 2013 (pp. 95-99).

 (…) “Texts about the painting of Zao Wou-Ki dating back to the 2000s are relatively rare. Most of the critics have often confined Zao Wou-Ki in what has been called in a rather artificial way the ‘second Ecole de Paris’. That is how the perception of his work has, for quite some time, only existed through references to the key period of the 1950s to the 1970s. His paintings from the 1980s have often been considered as a continuation of this period, nearly as a conclusion. Then it is a whole generation of artists, and with them their creations, that have been put aside, as if their painting was already accomplished and their contribution to the history of art had come to an end (…).

And when, in 2008, he decides that he will no longer paint in oil, it is a final decision. From then on he refuses to go to his studio. This space, he had especially created at the beginning of the 1960s then modernized and upgraded in the 1990s suddenly loses its raison d’être. For him, it disappears. It is also because he gave painting a new dimension. Similar to the impressionists, he decided to ‘set up his easel’ in the wild. And this reversal has emerged in the mid-2000. (…).

From then on, nature makes a big comeback in his work. One might very well imagine his Le Soir à l’Hôtel du Palais (An evening at the Hôtel du Palais), painted in 2004, as a gorgeous seascape. However, after taking a closer look, it is not a view of a beach he proposes but a total immersion in the elements, abolishing the border between the air and the water. One must not take into account the things providing him with a pretext – bonsai, fishes, orchids – but what both his artist’s eye and hand make of them, the transformation process he puts them through to reach a refined rebirth.” (…)

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DE VILLEPIN Dominique 2012

DE VILLEPIN Dominique, from « Dans le labyrinthe des lumières » (In the maze of lights), in Zao Wou-Ki. Works 1935-2010, Flammarion, Paris, 2012 (pp. 20-21).

(…)"Where is Zao Wou-Ki then? The traveler from Orient remains unfound. Halfway there? No, he walks on between the rifts, the chinks, within the unthought-of side of the world, in the bare world of before the traditions but with their weapons, with their eyes. A rupestrian world where he summons the world from above and where he creates a new light.

Zao Wou-Ki is not a time interval. Nor a milestone in a history of painting. He does not conform to schools, to fancies, always opening up his own furrow. He does not have the makings of time, he is made of matter into space. That is why it is illusory to try and approach him through the unfolding of the dates of a biography. He must be chased out in those infinite spaces, sometimes serene, sometimes frightening, where he takes refuge. On this shapeless scene of the Creation of the world. "  (…)

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