Chunya Zhou (b. 1955)
This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When au… Read more
Chunya Zhou (b. 1955)

Radiance of the Sunset

Chunya Zhou (b. 1955)
Radiance of the Sunset
dated '1982' (lower right)
oil on canvas
109.5 x 79.5 cm. (43 1/8 x 31 9/16 in.)
Painted in 1982
Timezone 8 Ltd., Zhou Chunya , Shanghai, China, 2010 (illustrated, p. 93).
Hefner Galleries, New York, USA, Dragon - Contemporary Oil
Paintings from the People's Republic of China , 1987
Shanghai, China, Shanghai Museum of Art, Zhou Chunya , 2010.
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Lot Essay

Zhou Chunya's classic Tibetan series belongs to the school of thought of the Scar Art Movement in the 1980s. Still studying at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute at the time, Zhou Chunya successively painted New Generation Tibetan (1980, Fig. 1), Sheep Shearing (1981, Fig. 2), and Radiance of the Sunset (1982) (Lot 19). Like an intensely passionate three movement symphony, the critically acclaimed Tibetan Trilogy has won the artist enormous recognition in the art world. These works have epitomized Zhou Chunya's individual style as a matured artist and witnessed the progress of his creative growth. The Tibetan Trilogy is the testimony to the revival and development of the Chinese painting art.
The Tibetan series was inspired by Zhou Chunya's travel to the Hongyuan County in Sichuan. The natural splendor of the Ruoergai Grassland left an unforgettable impression on the artist. Crowned as the "Oasis of the plateau" During his stay there, the artist discovered beauty that was previous unknown to him: the vivid hues of the grassland and the bucolic lifestyle of the Tibetan helped him to develop a new sense of aesthetics. Despite the decade long struggle and hardship against natural disasters, oppression, and poverty, the indigenous population still manage to preserve their sense of innocence, goodness, and optimistic folk spirit. Zhou Chunya was deeply moved by the resilient spirit of these people. He was determined to transform the ways of lives, thoughts, and feelings of these simple folks into the subject matters of his works.

Each of Zhou Chunya's Tibetan works takes a different perspective of the subject matter: the 1980 work New Generation Tibetan uses the tone of a documentary to reveal the goodness and innocence of the Tibetan children living on the prairies. The 1981 work Sheep Shearing takes on a theatrical perspective -- By using heavy and intense brushwork, he portrayed the rugged and rustic Tibetans laboring in their natural environment. Comparing to the two earlier works in the Trilogy, the artistic expression in Radiance of the Sunset reflects the artist's psychological transformation during the creation of the series. It is also apparent in the painting that the techniques and concepts behind the work have also considerably matured. Unlike the two earlier works, the setting of Radiance of the Sunset is much more poetic: At sunset, a Tibetan girl is heading home along the path. As if it is a pastoral symphony, the tenderness of the scene resonates in the audience's ears. In this masterpiece, Zhou Chunya bares his heart to reveal his connection to the soil, his cherishment of his homeland, and the great expectations that he has for the future of this country. Radiance of the Sunset captures the three dimensional landscape in a two dimensional painting by using a traditional perspective technique with the vanishing point placed high on the picture plane of the composition.

Zhou Chunya deliberately pushes the vanishing point up and away from the center. As the horizon is elevated, the skies have reduced to only one-sixth of the canvas. The path meanders to the upper left of the picture and disappears with the vanishing point. This arrangement divides the picture into three major sections: the path on which the Tibetan girl stands, the area left of the path, and the area right of the path. With this composition, the artist places the Tibetan girl, the yak, and the shepherd dog right in front of the viewer as if we are following them down the path. The viewer is positioned to see and sense what the Tibetan trio is experiencing. The artist puts the Tibetan girl between the animals as if the strength of yak is paving the way for the Tibetan people, and the loyal shepherd dog is protecting her. It speaks of the interconnectedness of nature and the intimate relationship between humans and animals. Similar to Henri Rousseau's work La Bohmienne endormie (The Sleeping Gypsy) (Fig 3), the surrealist work fantastically expresses the tender relationship between primitive humans and beasts.

The harmonious cool colour scheme of Radiance of the Sunset consists of yellow ochre and Persian blue. Comparing to the relatively warm colour scheme of the other two works in the Tibetan Trilogy, the bluish black, Persian blue, and crimson in this work reveal the tranquilsoul of the Tibetan girl that was distilled by the passage of time. Oil paint was generously loaded onto the brush to form layers upon layers of rich impasto. As the interwoven layers of textures harmonise with each other, new colour chords and melodies are created to heighten the saturation of the colours and reinforce the presence of the figures. As the dark outlines of the converging fences meet at the horizon, the depth of space has been greatly pushed to create an incredible stage for Zhou Chunya to contain the richness of the scenery and the abundance of feelings.

Through the masterful placement of forms, coordination of colours, and application of impasto, Zhou Chunya's work transmits an aura of majesty. It is a wave of energy that engulfs the viewer with sincerity and warmth. Up on the sky is not a sun that will soon disappear off the horizon. It is an orange-red blush that radiates like the sunrise and showers over everything: the yak in the front is enveloped in the aura as if it is shrouded by a halo; the rim of the Tibetan girl's hat is also illuminated by the blush; the picket fences sparkle under the sacred glow. Even though Zhou Chunya has painted a setting sun, it symbolizes the sunrise and evokes its optimism. The silhouette representation of the figures in the composition has imbued the painting with multitudes of symbolisms and metaphors. The main character leads the viewer into her world: up ahead along the winding path, amongst the rolling mountains, at the end of the road is the place where the sun rises and sets. No one knows how many twists and turns there are on this stretch of road. But at the end of the road, it is the promise and anticipation of a home and a future. This spirit is shared by Luo Zhongli's painting Heaven (Fig. 4) - boldly standing amidst a raging thunderstorm, the figure raises his head defiantly and questions the heavens. This fearless man is determined to overcome adversity no matter what the future holds. Also similar is the Wanderer (Fig. 5) in Caspar David Friedrich's painting, the breadth of his heroism and existential realization is paralleled to the resilient spirit of Zhou Chunya's Tibetan girl. Not only did Zhou Chunya's Tibetan series establish a milestone in Chinese culture and art history, it also demonstrated the artist's accomplishments on the canvas: the pioneering work New Generation Tibetan turned a new page for the Scar Art Movement; Sheep Shearing is the artist's sincere interpretation of his utmost respect for the noble nation; Finally, Radiance of the Sunset is Zhou Chunya's artistic statement to celebrate his zeal for life. Such powerful expression has sublimed into a profound personal artistic achievement so great that it encompasses the revival of this era and the anticipation of the next.

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