To coincide with the Europalia China festival, the Fondation Folon hosted works by the Chinese-French artist Zao Wou-Ki.
About thirty of Zao Wou-Ki’s works on paper were exhibited: Indian inks and ink washes on paper and a dozen coloured watercolours from the 1950s to 2006. The exhibition, which featured some previously unseen works, gave pride of place to works in black and white, and provided an opportunity to highlight the significant influence of the Belgian-French poet Henri Michaux.
I work obsessively to project in my paintings the image of the universe that I feel inside me until I can arrive at a perception which always seems to elude me, Zao Wou-Ki said of himself
Art belongs to the realm of the mysterious. It is something that has to draw people in, create a rapport, go beyond the individual. Zao Wou-Ki’s painting has to do with existence, not history, it allows him to live and to make full use of the emotions he feels as he paints, the result of an internal struggle. The pictorial signifier is not a story. In his painting, there is something sacred that defies analysis.
An escape of the soul? Undoubtedly… Zao Wou-Ki develops this spiritual requirement of Man.
In his Indian inks and watercolours, the mesh of streaks and marks and the riot of the colours work in harmony to create the work, in keeping with this principle of inner necessity. He lifts us up and carries us off in the whirlwind of his landscapes to experience the persistent rhythm of the wind with all the light it carries, the rhythm of its course, of its surprises, of the colours, of the breeze, of the intensity of fire and the calm of water.
The overall unity of his work does not come from the images that it represents but from the subtlety of juxtapositions, combinations of reflections which are on the verge of metamorphosis, patches of silence, and gentle, diffused, sunny vibrations.
In abstract art, it is no longer the subject of the emotion, but the emotion itself, which is the theme of the painting. Abandoning representation does not mean abandoning meaning, or the expression which conveys the meaning.
In total surrender to his inner vision, Zao Wou-Ki steers us, like a magician of light, toward his hidden kingdoms. He guides our gaze as it wanders from one perception to another. Transformed into a traveller, it is involved in the process because it makes guesses and uses imagination.