Zao was born in China, but lived out of the country for most of his adulthood, spending most of his time in Paris and New York. Zao’s works combine influences from ink-and-wash painting with developments in modernist abstraction. He once explained, “If the influence of Paris in my artistic formation is undeniable, I must also say that I have gradually rediscovered China, along with my growing confidence. China is inherent in all my recent canvases. Paradoxically it is to Paris that I owe this return to my profoundest origins.” In works such as 10.12.60 (1960) and 19.3.62 (1962), both titled after the date on which they were executed, Zao shows the parallels shared by Chinese calligraphy and the work of abstractionists such as Antoni Tàpies and Georges Mathieu.
Along with Zao, Chu was dubbed one of the “Three Musketeers,” a trio of Chinese expatriate artists living in France from the 1950s and working with abstract art and traditional East Asian painting techniques. The emphasis on line in works such as Untitled (1985) is complicated by the use of layering, alternately obscuring and bolding the traces of the artist’s brush along the canvas. Composition (1984) further heightens this drawing-based practice with its use of strong color: reds, yellows, blues, browns, and green. Untitled (1974) and Untitled (1979) bring his paintings much closer to abstract landscapes with their allusion to horizon lines and emphasis on perspective.
T’ang hews much closer to traditional ink painting, incorporating gouache and watercolor into his paintings on paper, though he also produced videos. Works such as Untitled (1964-66) and Untitled (1967-68) both refer to calligraphy obliquely, building up surfaces and topping them with quasi-literal marks. Others, such as Untitled (c. 1968), allude to figure studies, occupying a space between abstraction and representation.
Visit de Sarthe Gallery at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2015, Booth 3D30, Mar. 15–17, 2015.