Chunya Zhou (b. 1955)
signed in Chinese; signed 'ZHOU CHUNYA' in Pinyin; dated '1999' (lower right)
oil on canvas
100 x 79.9 cm. (39 3/8 x 39 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1999
Longrun Art, Zhou Chunya, Zeng Fanzhi, Ji Dachun, Beijing, China, 2006 (illustrated, p.13 & p.43).

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Eric Chang
Eric Chang

Lot Essay

The theme of 'flowers' has always been a favourite of Zhou Chunya. From the late 1980s, following his return to China from Germany, he embarked on the study of ancient literati painting and innovated the genre by injecting his own expressive intent using visual elements from nature while incorporating means of expression from Western painting. In his floral paintings, the artist is not in pursuit of the inherent restraint of the flower; instead, his works are wanton and indulgent. The copious application of paint gives expression to the delight of nature. The composition emphasises the annecdote of 'trimming the flowers and pruning the leaves, seize the charm of spring as it vies for the new'. It stresses an abstract, textural effect in which the green leaves, formed by the unrestrained, self-assured brush strokes, and the dynamic lines occupy the principal position. Yet the delicate flowers are thrown into relief which pulls the petals to the fore. The complex interweaving composition and the unrestrained use of phantomlike colours make the very essence of these objects from nature appear as a whole before the viewer. Through his unique artistic lexicon, Zhou Chunya expresses the characteristic of Chinese literati painting: the joy of 'seizing Creation and altering its spirit as if in reverie'.
In Flowers(Lot 126), with an absolute self-confidence, the artist arranges the flowers in an elegant and eternal freeze frame resembling the quiet observation of the Dutch still life artists of the seventeenth century. The dripping of the pigments down the surface of the painting and the free brush strokes convey the natural beauty of plants more effectively than realist rendering. The real petals, from which the charming colours are about to drip down the poetic realm of canvas, are transformed into the unreal, while the characteristic translucence of oil affords the work an effect like that of ink wash. However, unlike Chinese traditional flower- and-bird painting, where the fine brush traces the image with precision onto silk, the flowers Zhou Chunya portrays stretch across the painting with grace and abandon. Although he too exploits the blank surface as a foil to display the dichotomy of the real and unreal, his unique freehand style comes from a portrayal of the spirit rather than the appearance of the object; in this way, he maintains the distance between art and reality for the viewer to savour at will.

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