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

Zhou Chunya (b.1955)
Little Path to Dragon Spring Mountain(Painted in 2006)

Oil on canvas

200 × 250 cm. 78 3/4 × 98 3/8 in.

Signed in Chinese and pinyin, and dated on bottom right

2007, Blooming Stories, Sichuan Fine Art Publishing Co., Chengdu, p. 84-85
2007, Zhou Chunya, Sichuan Fine Art Publishing Co., Chengdu, p. 74
2010, Zhou Chunya, Timezone 8, Shanghai, p. 491
3-23 Mar 2007, Blooming Stories – Paintings & Sculptures by Zhou Chunya, Beijing Today Art Museum, Beijing

Acquired directly by original private Asian collector from the artist
Private Collection, Asia
31 Mar 2019, Sotheby's Hong Kong Spring Auctions, Lot 577
Acquired by present important private Asian collector from the above

A Peach Blossom Symphony of Strength and Beauty – Poetry and Self Truth
A Rare Zhou Chunya Dragon Spring Mountain Peach Blossom Masterpiece

In 1986, Zhou Chunya went to study at the Kunsthochschule Kassle in Germany, where he encountered German neo-expressionism and European new art that gave him a different understanding of art. Based on his passion for and understanding of European art, Zhou developed a vision, which led him to reexamine the constituent elements of traditional Eastern aesthetics and his own approach to self-expression. Whether the “scar art” led by his alma mater Sichuan Fine Arts Institute or the broad influence of New Wave art in China in 1985, Zhou's artistic path has never followed the path of what was fashionable at the time. Indeed, the changes in form every time the artist breaks fresh ground showcase an individualistic artistic appeal that stubbornly differs from the mainstream. Beginning in the 1990s, Zhou started to use an artistic style that combined Eastern and Western expressionism to depict powerful “mountain rocks,” energetic looking “green dogs” and “red men” imbued with lustful abandon. After the Millennium, the artist created the gorgeous, flowing, life referential “peach blossom” series, through which he expressed the romantic poetry of Eastern literati along with the seven emotions and six desires of human nature. In this way, Zhou blended visual warmth and life rhythm to represent the free blossoming of spirit. As he observed: “Humanity and the desires with which we are born are also expressions of the exuberance of life and this is akin to the peach blossoms that bloom in spring, why then should I avoid them?”

Enchanting Early Peach Blossoms: Viewing the Artist's Largest Painting of Dragon Spring Mountain

In the work Little Path to Dragon Spring Mountain, completed in 2006, Zhou Chunya recalls climbing Dragon Spring Mountain on the outskirts of Chengdu. The breadth and depth of the work highlights a wonderful scene made up of a winding path, secluded location and colourful peach blossoms, which evoke the artist's inner excitement at this first encounter. A review of paintings by Zhou shows that he first depicted peach blossoms in a vase in 1997, in a green dog painting. Moreover, in his Red Man series the peach blossoms gradually moved from being a background object to the foreground. In the spring of 2005, Zhou traveled to Dragon Spring Mountain with his wife and friends where the peach blossoms they saw were: “flirtatious in a way that caused the blood to course through my veins, allowing me to feel the rhythm of primitive life energy -- providing him with artistic inspiration.”

Little Path to Dragon Spring Mountain is one of the most sought after works in Zhou Chunya's Peach Blossom series and one of only a handful that have the name of the mountain in the title. Indeed, Zhou has painted only eight paintings of Dragon Spring Mountain peach blossoms of which the work for the spring auction is the largest, brimming with majesty and charm. For the artist, Dragon Spring Mountain also represents his first encounter with peach blossoms, of which he observed: “the peach blossoms of Dragon Spring Mountain do not have the beauty of Jiangzhe peach blossoms but are rather infused with a sense of wild abandon.” Art critic Li Xianting has observed the similarity between peach blossoms and the character of the artist: “You do not look on this beautiful encounter as a bad thing, but rather accept it as overflowing with passion. Love is so perfect in your mind and it is that outlook that enables you to create such an amorous painting of peach blossoms, this is your greatest success.” At the same time, the peach blossoms of Dragon Spring Mountain are an amorous encounter the artist brings with him to the mountain forest, but also a reference to the romantic meeting and marriage of Zhou and his musician wife Shuang Shuang. This explains the thick saturated colours along with the intensely passionate and luxuriantly fine brushwork, in which context, Little Path to Dragon Spring Mountain is the perfect crystallization of art and spirit combined.

Beautiful Red Blush: Layer Upon Layer of Boundless Freedom

Little Path to Dragon Spring Mountain represents a departure from the artist's previous works which tended to focus on close-ups of solitary peach blossoms, adopting instead a broader view he rarely depicts, the small mountain path suddenly bedecked with free growing peach trees. Walking up that gorgeous small path, the interplay of pink-white hues and lush green sumptuousness echo the vivacious peach red and grass green, while the flat accumulated layers of smooth strokes create marks that indicate the passing of time, freezing the splendid crimson blossoms at the peak of their existence in full bloom. A peach tree irregularly stretches out from the right of the painting and reaches across almost the entire length of the work. As the old but strong branch reaches out in all directions it also alludes to the unrestrained, free and fearless nature of life. Moreover, pathways from the left and right converge in the middle, combining with the peach tree to imbue the scene with an undulating rhythm. These reach out toward the boundless clear sky and angular light purple mountain range, extending the spatial layers outwards and upwards into the infinite, providing viewers with a vision and mindset that is both relaxed and expansive.

Moreover, the decorative peach blossoms are concentrated at the ends of the branches with Zhou Chunya focused on the thickness and purity of the colour and shape of the blossoms: “The colour of the peach blossoms is ambiguous, the external area being white and the central part red.” In this way, he is able to ingeniously control the relationship between the colours, so the hue of each one contains within it different levels of “fragility” and “allure.” At the same time, as the space extends whether the blossoms are dense or sparse, the lush areas intense and replete with color or dispersed, lighter and less distinct, they remain a combination of ambiguous affection and life intensity, connecting the romanticism of the ancients and the reveries of modern life.

Brilliant and Wild Passion: Greeted by a Cloud Dragon Rising from the Ground

In this work, Zhou Chunya makes no secret of the way in which he employs lines replete with strength and flow, together with calligraphic brushstrokes completed in one go, to craft a branch that cuts through heaven and earth. As it dances, one branch reaches into the vastness of the clear sky, while another explores the ground, like arms opened in a wide embrace inviting viewers to a wonderful banquet of life. Next to it we see a leafless, arrow-straight peach blossom branch pointing skywards, like a cloud dragon lifting its head upwards and screaming into the air, rising straight up from the ground. Although the branch has no leaves, it stands proud with a style all of its own, in a way that is reminiscent of the vital exuberance of Van Gogh's Irises. However, in terms of colour expression and aesthetic tension, Zhou's plum blossoms are imbued with a greater sense of amorous generosity. Among the surging fragrance of the flowers and vertical or horizontal wild branches viewers also glimpse the boundless nature of the mountains and sky, as the the passion, wild nature and bright colours of original desire are laid bare before us and reverberate throughout this grand and imposing scene.

A Free State of Mind Transported Back to Its Original State

If we indulge this peach blossom world then what Zhou Chunya pursues above all else is a free state of mind. He abandons the imitation of literati spirit in favor of instead creating a unique scene of peach blossoms that highlights the true appearance of the flowers and the unbridled freedom of life through rich imagery encompassing dynamism and stillness. Zhou says: “My paintings are all about passion and romance, desire is a constituent part of human life, something possessed from birth. More importantly, our emotions and desires relating to sex are a realization of vitality, symbolizing the exuberance of life.” In Little Path to Dragon Spring Mountain, the artist takes his memory back to the very beginning and in the depths of the winding path we suddenly see the stunning peach tree branches and luxuriant green leaves as the peach blossoms willfully bloom and show off their infinite vitality. It is there that we see the paradise on earth for which we yearn and Zhou Chunya's state of mind is free and at ease as he narrates this scene of beauty unexpectedly encountered. Faced with this amazing sight we embrace the real-life experience of “seeing the world in a flower.”

Price estimate:
HKD: 7,000,000 – 9,000,000
USD: 891,700 – 1,146,500

Auction Result:
HKD: --



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