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The colorful world of Zhou Chunya

By Zhang Kun (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-06-18 11:17
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The colorful world of Zhou Chunya
Artist Zhou Chunya manages to bring out a fierce feeling by using sharp colors in his paintings. [Provided to China Daily] 

Zhang Kun talks to an artist who has earned plenty of respect - and money - from his work

When Zhou Chunya accidentally brushed some green paint on a painting he was working on depicting his deceased black pet dog, the unusually striking color sparked something in him immediately.

"I spread the green to a wider range and ultimately painted a green dog full of visual impact," said the 55-year-old oil painter.

An artist whose paintings are some of the most expensive in the contemporary Chinese art scene, Zhou has established his fame on these signature paintings of green dogs, red nudity and, more recently, peach blossoms.

A retrospective exhibition of Zhou's art, featuring more than 200 oil paintings, sketches and studies dating back to 1971, is on show at the Shanghai Art Museum.

"I have always liked bright colors and enjoyed the visual stimulation - this is in my nature," Zhou said before the opening of his exhibition.

Born in Chongqing, Zhou joined an art school at 15, because "I wanted to eat meat", he said. The school was aimed at producing artists to serve the Cultural Revolution and create political propaganda. The school provided good nourishment to young minds and growing bodies.

"Nude sculptures were forbidden at that time, but my teacher ingeniously sculpted a revolutionary hero and made us draw it - this gave me solid basic training as an artist."

After graduating from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, Zhou joined other artists from the province to play an active part in the nationwide new wave art movement of the early 1980s, bravely using Western skills and experimenting with personal expression as opposed to traditional realism.

Later he studied in Kassel, Germany and was influenced by the German Expressionism.

"You find strokes like Chinese calligraphy in his paintings," said local critic Zhan Hao. "Look at the details and you'll be impressed at the smoothness and accuracy of his strokes."

Zhou constantly shows new inspirations and expressions. Whether it's rocks, peach trees or dogs, Zhou manages to bring out a fierce feeling, contrasting sharp colors, and ordinary and lyrical subjects in his dark expression, Zhan said.

The colorful world of Zhou Chunya

Galleries in Taiwan first recognized Zhou's talent in the early 1990s, when the Chinese mainland had yet to develop a market for contemporary art. Now most of the exhibits have been borrowed from Taiwanese collectors, and the insurance premium totals are as much as 300 million yuan.

Zhou will also be one of four artists named as an Artist of the Year by Martell, a cognac producer that sponsors Artists of the Year exhibitions in China. Together with the other three artists, Zhou's work will be exhibited again at the Shanghai Art Museum after his current exhibition.



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