(B. 1955)
Vase with Green Dog Decoration
signed in Chinese; signed 'Zhou Chunya' in Pinyin; dated '1997' (lower right)
oil on canvas
150 x 119.5 cm. (59 x 47 in.)
Painted in 1997
Gallery of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, The Nature of Portraiture, Beijing, China, 1997 (illustrated, p.10).
Beijing, China, Gallery of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, The Nature of Portraiture, 1997.

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Lot Essay

Born in Chongqing, Zhou Chunya attended the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in 1977. In the 1980s, Zhou spent a few years in Germany and graduated with a Masters degree from the Gesamthochschule in Kassel. It was at this time that Zhou's style began to move towards a more metaphysical approach that incorporated Fauvist and Neo-Expressionistic elements, with a desire to free art from any repressive constraints and create a highly individualistic realm with an abundance of colour, material, narration and an intended shapelessness.
Having returned to China in 1989, Zhou encountered a new feeling of intimacy towards his country. He delved into a systematic research on Chinese literati painting, fascinated by the exquisite refinement and sensitivity in the paintings of Bada Shanren and Dong Qichang in particular. The 1990s mark an emblematic shift in Zhou's artistic development as he walked out of the shadow of art movements in the West, and developed a keen desire to express his individuality with a more "introverted" and "refined" style of the Yuan masters.
In Lady (Lot 1509), the face is covered in a web of textured calligraphic brushstrokes that reminds of dripping ink from a Chinese brush. Zhou's liberated brush searches and molds the facial features with expressive marks, while containing them within the face only. The face emerges from an amorphous, dusty brown atmosphere that is swept in broad ink-like washes, and the image successfully conveys a sense of tension that is sunk deep and contracted inwards. In 1992, Zhou began his Rock Series that portrays traditional garden rocks expressed in strong colours, and rephrases the textures of the rock as tactile paint surfaces that emphasizes volume and structure. Chinese Landscape (Lot 1507) arose from that phase of discovering sculptural forms in his powerful brushstrokes, and animates the rocks, bestowing upon them an almost human spirit. A similar sense of monumentality and transcendence is translated into Nude (Lot 1664), in which a limited palette of solemn grays and browns depict the abstracted figure with the likeness of a Chinese landscape, and a translucency that comes with a lighter and more buoyant brush of the artist.
Friends (Lot 1508) is a rare intimate memento that gives insight into Zhou's artistic diversity and spontaneity, as well as a true desire to capture human relations. Like reproducing a fading black and white photograph, the painting is handled with washes similar to Chinese ink and experiments in manipulating and reinterpreting straight photography. In 1994 Zhou received a German Shepherd named Heigen from a friend. This developed into a long-lasting and profound relationship, to a point that Zhou believed that he could read Heigen's mind. In 1997, he painted Heigen in bold green for the first time, and claimed this was by pure coincidence and can be explained with little reason. Vase with Green Dog Decoration (Lot 1506) is the artist's personal tribute to Heigen. Painted in complementing green and red colours, the dog is transformed into a metaphor of great emotions contained within the Chinese vessel. Standing against the white, empty background, the dog and the vessel are symbolic of a sense of detachment, as well as importance and fulfillment.

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