The art of Zao Wou-ki combines the essences of Oriental and Western cultures. Using abstraction as a mean, his paintings reveal a world that is sensational and poetic.


In 1948, when Zao was visiting the museums in France, he was deeply moved and inspired by the work of Paul Klee. Since 1954, Zao started to make abstract paintings. In his work, masses of colours appear to materialise a creating world, like a big bang, where light structures the canvas. Symbols are replaced by a large field of colour, featured by free-style brushstrokes, and a touch of poetic lightness on flowing through the painting's surface.


From 60's to early 70's, black and brown still predominated Zao's abstract painting as the base tones. Since the mid-70's, Zao's painting style has proceeded to another stage. His oil painting in this period lightens up with the use of bright and lush colours. Composition changed from “cluttering” to “scattering”, and a shift of focus to light and space, to present the delicate, multi-layered variations in colour tone, creating a pure abstraction and depiction of spirit and emotions. Zao Wou-ki takes a further step in the development and deepening of abstract painting by tracing back the rules for Chinese conceptual ink painting, and blending them in with western oil painting. He employs ink painting techniques to treat oil paint and pigments, imitating the effects of diffusing and dying on canvas, exploiting primary colors, its purity and fluidity of motion. His works are infused with the aura of Chinese painting, evoking a state of meditation.


In 80’s, Zao reached the peak of his artistic career. His use of brushstrokes and colour are sharp and confident, showcasing a unique synthesis of Chinese and Western traits. This return to Chinese tradition marked Zao's irreplaceable achievement and vision in art. Taking a closer look at his transition from oil painting to stylized ink and oil painting, it unfolds a heart-gripping story of an extraordinary artist.