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2023 Spring Auctions > Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art
Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art

Chu Teh-Chun (1920 – 2014)
Quand S'anime Le Crépuscule(Painted in 2004)

Oil on canvas

162 × 130 cm. 63 3/4 × 51 1/8 in.

Signed in Chinese and English, and dated on bottom right; titled in French, signed in Chinese and English, and dated on the reverse

2004, Chu Teh-Chun - Au Coeur de la Création, Centre d'art Le Moulin de Lambouray, Jouy, p. 58
6 Jun – 30 Sep 2004, Chu Teh-Chun - Au Coeur de la Création, Centre d'art Le Moulin de Lambouray, Jouy, France

Private Collection, Asia
17 Jun 2012, JSL Taipei Spring Auction, Lot 68
Acquired directly by present important private Asian collector from the above

Bright Colours in a Starry Sky
Glorious Debut of Chu Teh-Chun's Epic Quand S'anime Le Crépuscule

“My paintings are inquiries of the cosmos, a collision of life reflections and passion. I use colours and light to construct my pictures, relate my understanding of the world and life, express my doubts, thoughts and emotions. When I paint it is an emotional impulse, some have said they feel the natural revelation of emotion in my paintings and I believe that such sincere passion resonates with people.”
——Chu Teh-Chun

In 1997, Chu was the first Chinese painter to receive the honor of becoming an “Academician at the Academy of Fine Arts at the Institut de France,” an indication of his well-deserved reputation as a master of Chinese abstract art. The artist was first inspired by European lyrical abstraction when living in Paris in 1955 and soon after started to diligently explore nature, past and present, eastern and western culture, gradually developing his own inimical artistic vocabulary. During this period, Chu cultivated painting brushwork through Chinese calligraphy in the 1960s, whereas the dramatic light and shade of Western Classicism and Rembrandt led to his use of light and shade in the 1970s, whereas he departed from the spirit and rhyme of Eastern landscapes in the 1980s. Indeed, as he traveled Europe and the US in the 1990s, the artist was able to link his journey to the impact of Western expressionism and finally he moved in the direction of synthesizing these divergent elements in 2000.

Essential Artist Achievements Living in Paris for 50 Years

Chu Teh-Chun's Quand S'anime Le Crépuscule, completed in 2004 after five decades of traveling around France, also represents how in the years after 2000 he reached the pinnacle of abstract art. However, Chu also sought to outdo himself by breaking with the concentrated light source and central composition he employed in the past. Although from the 1990s to after 2000 the dominant hue of Chu's works tended to be blue-green, in Quand S'anime Le Crépuscule he established an entirely different path, using dispersed sources of light and dazzling coloured blocks progressing from the lower left to the upper right of the work and also to the right of centre. These perfectly construct a natural moving circle, like a gradually rising sound in a symphony against a backdrop of coffee-red and majestic black that highlight the brightness, presenting viewers with a visual feast replete with power and beauty, imagination and surprise. The work is an echo of its title Quand S'anime Le Crépuscule, a collection of light and shade, cast with the splendor of East and West, outstanding and magnificent in the way it condenses what is best in Chu's art to create the epitome of excellence.

East-West Treasure: Lighting up the Universe
A Masterpiece from Sino-French Art Exchange Years

The artist achievements of Chu Teh-Chun after the turn of the Millennium are widely recognized in both the East and West. After receiving the “Academician at the Institut de France” in 2001, he was also awarded the highest artistic honor in France, the “Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur” presented by the President of France and the “Palmes academiques Chevalier ribbon” from the French Ministry of Education. In 2004, the governments of China and France organized a first “cultural exchange year” at which both considered Chu to be a Sino-French artistic treasure. In the same year, the artist was invited to hold five solo exhibitions in France, Geneva and Hong Kong. This period in which Chu achieved success and won recognition is the same year he completed the auctioned piece Quand S'anime Le Crépuscule. The work first appeared in public in September 2004 at the Chu Teh-Chun - Au Coeur de la Création exhibition at Centre d'art Le Moulin de Lambouray in Jouy France. In other words, the provenance of the work is clear and also serves as a testament to the joy and celebration of exchanges between China and France at that time, and the bountiful artistic harvest it facilitated. In this sense, the powerful brushwork that gallops across the expansive canvas imbued with the rhythm of life showcases the magnificent imagery created through the art and mind of Chu Teh-Chun.

Sonata of Light, Flickering Lights, Powerful Notes:
A Wide-Ranging Visual Feast, Transcending Past and Present

Where Quand S'anime Le Crépuscule, differs from Chu's earlier works is that it maps out a different path for the artist using a composition made up of dispersed points of light that highlight a “diverse visual space.” In the abstruse background there are five blocks where white is the main colour, introducing a lively rhythm akin to musical notes, playing and replaying a musical movement into this silent universe. The feibai calligraphy style and gossamer brush descend from the top of the piece into the white light, like a gently played bamboo flute marking the beginning of a nocturne. This is surrounded by black and dark blue which are infiltrated with indigo and carmine red, which radiate a “never ending light” as if the beginnings of Heaven and Earth. If we follow this downwards then to the left a white spot oscillates in a cloud created from blue, purple and vermillion, while the light at the bottom of the central area is the brightest, with a triangular light area to the right. Chu Teh-Chun adds square blocks of dazzling eye-catching vermillion, turquoise, pink and black to the thick layers of yellow-orange, which bring to mind the legends of gold treasure at the pinnacle of the ancient Egyptian and Mayan civilizations, playing on people's imaginings about those ancient peoples. The circular light in the lower left of the work seems to split open as it rolls and a riotous profusion of colour spills forth like hope, as the two push viewers in the direction of a dramatic climax like part of a symphony of wind and string instruments. It is almost as if the dimensions of time and space are magnified and following the brushwork of Chu we find ourselves at an artistic feast that connects past and present.

Blazing Splendor: Brilliant Dance of Colour

Wu Guanzhong commented: “The main element in Chu Teh-Chun's paintings is ‘movement'. Paintings are like a chorus of movement, and Chu Teh-Chun has harmoniously united the rhythmic beauty of his movement with colours. People are able to witness this wild dance but without a pin drop of noise, as if through a layer of crystal. The power and coarseness of the energy is enveloped in the beauty of tranquility.” In Quand S'anime Le Crépuscule, the artist uses gem-like brilliant and passionate coloured points of light as a base from which to initiate all momentum in the painting. The colours are dark and clear, overlapping and interchangeable, parts appear brilliantly “conflicting” and others “explosive.” To the right of the painting the glittering orange-yellow hue overflows with fiery flames like scorching magma spurting from the depths of the Earth, bursting forth the strong bright warm colours like lighting hitting the ground. The bright yellow, vermillion and indigo to which this gives rise appear like shattered star points exploding, rapidly flying towards the edge of the light and shade. Below this, the rollercoaster brushstrokes are interwoven, with highly colourful and vibrant crimson, rose-pink, dark green and light yellow, bursting from the cold blue-white base colour, to create a contrast between the cold and warm colours.

Strength in Beauty, Splendor Hidden in Essence
“In his hands, the brush had to find the rhythm of Chinese calligraphy and give the colours rhythm. The silent, dim and dark colour gradations give off glittering sparks through the adjustment of transparent light.”
——French art critic Raoul-Jean Moulin

Moreover, the powerful brushwork practiced by Chu Teh-chun since learning calligraphy as a young boy emerges from the overlapping of these abstract colours and lines. The artist's skillful application of calligraphy is apparent between the upwards and right strokes, rising strokes and dot strokes of the coloured marks and background dark colour brushstrokes. The smaller stokes flow like the jingle of a jade pendant, while the larger strokes are rich in passion like wild cursive lines. From flying in the dark blue firmament at the top of the work to the connection to the vast and wild Earth at the bottom of the piece, Chu creates a beautiful melody like a poem that is a mixture of fast and slow movements. A large brush stroke of pink-white and indigo descends from the top of the painting like a comet streaking across the sky, with a row of vertical flowing broad strokes at either side leaving an outline reminiscent of a piece of bright beautiful jade. Within the sweeping, strong, thick strokes and refined coloured dots, there are images of twilight, sunset glow, a gale and flames float in the ether. This is every bit as majestic as the vast ocean vistas painted by British painter William Turner (1775-1851), the imposing mountains of Song Dynasty artist Fan Kuan (950-1032), with the dots of light resembling the city lights of Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). Poet Xing Qiji (1140-1207) writes of a sumptuous sight to behold when “The East wind of the night calls to bloom blossoms of a thousand trees, as if blowing adrift stars that drizzle like rain”. At this point, there is a convergence of Eastern lyricism and Western rationalism, revealing strength in beauty and splendor hidden in essence.

Coexistence of Real and Virtual, Eastern and Western Philosophies Over Time and Space

Within this multiple overlapping space, Chu Teh-Chun showcases an artistic dimension focused on nature, light, rhythm and the universe. To that end, he utilizes nostalgia for the arrangements of Eastern landscape painting and love of nature, taking fleeting moments of light and shade and freezing them in the vertical painting Quand S'anime Le Crépuscule, so as to breathe life into the abstract structure. At this juncture, the mutual growth of reality and virtuality, night and day, deep serenity and light are not absolute, they coexist and symbiotically fluctuate. The four elements, scenes from the four seasons, a myriad twinkling lights, high mountains and distant rivers are all present. Chu Teh-Chun showcase the wonders of the boundless universe and these are magnificently displayed in the unique Quand S'anime Le Crépuscule.

Price estimate:
HKD: 9,000,000 – 12,000,000
USD: 1,146,500 – 1,528,700

Auction Result:
HKD: 10,680,000



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