Saturday, June 9, 2018

Zao Wou-Ki at Musée d'Art Moderne

This week John and I enjoyed an exhibition of the abstract paintings of Chinese painter, Zao Wou-ki. We had noticed his work at Christie's recent auction preview. Then when we saw that the Modern Art Museum was featuring him we thought we had better go have a look.
When Zao Wou-Ki first arrived in Paris in 1948 his work had a dreamy figurative look like this early untitled painting from 1949. This is the one we saw at Christie's preview.
When Wou-ki met North American abstract painters like Sam Francis, Joan Mitchell and Jean-Paul Riopelle in Paris he got excited about the possibilities offered by abstraction. He was also inspired by the new music of the time. Hommage to Edgar Varese, 1964
  I love this early untitled work, 1959-1960
On the day we went to the exhibition this copyist was doing fascinating small copies of the works. That's John looking on from a distance.
The copyist was using inks on small pieces of shiny paper.
Nice results.
In his later works Wou-ki started using larger canvases, Untitled, 1964.
 and multiple canvases for horizontal images,  Untitled, triptych, 1966.
In the 1970s, Wou-ki began to use staining of the canvases as a technique. Untitled, 1973.
The 70's works are quite lush. Untitled, 1974
and contemplative. Untitled, 1975-1985.
 Wou-ki liked to paint tributes to artists that he admired. Hommage to Claude Monet, triptych, 1991.
No matter how abstract his paintings, Wou-ki claimed that nature was always an inspiration. In The Wind pushing the Sea, tripych, 2004, Wou-ki includes a tiny figurative detail. You can almost see it in this photo on the far right.
Here's a closer look. Nice sense of humour.
I took two pictures of a film clip of Zao Wou-ki in his large studio in Loiret, France
contemplating an empty canvas.
Later in his career Wou-ki began making ink drawings. John and I love this Ink Book from 1974. Chinese ink wash on paper
Ink Book (detail), 1974
Ink Book (detail), 1974. Chinese ink wash on paper
Wou-ki enjoyed the way ink allowed him to work quickly and spontaneously even in very large works. Untitled, 1986
 The results are decidedly gorgeous. Untitled, 2006, ink on paper
The show ends with these 2006 ink-wash paintings, one of his late commissions, and I think they really show how much he achieved with ink late in his career.
Zao Wou-ki, L'Espace est Silence is on until January 6, 2019

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