As Hong Kong art critic Lam Tong Lin observed: “[Chu’s painting is] agile and exuberant like the vigorous dance of dragons and snakes, moving freely and winding in shapes that recall the wonders of nature, at the same time capturing emotions to its fullest.” Hues of grey, white, and sky blue harmonically soar over the surface of the picture, evoking the traditional splashing, sprinkling, and dripping characteristic of the intersection between Chinese ink painting and Jackson Pollock’s pour technique. Endowing his treatment of paint with a distinctly Eastern meditative contemplation, Chu skillfully reaches the sublime in Printemps Hivernal—the painting depicts neither the abstract nor the figurative, but rather distills nature into a higher state of mind. Chu garnered international renown upon his inclusion in the 1964 Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh and the 1969 São Paulo Biennial, contemporary surveys that propelled the artist’s pre-eminence within a global landscape of innovative abstract painting.
In 1999, Chu became the first Chinese member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts under the Institut de France, punctuating his significant contribution to both the Chinese and Western European art historical canons. When he was inducted into the Académie in 1999, he gave a speech from which an excerpt might offer a key to deciphering the true essence of 1984’s Printemps Hivernal: “I seek to make visible, through their perpetual mutations, the basic and complementary principles in the philosophy of I Ching. Yang is fiery and bright, whilst Yin is dark and damp. This duality creates a universe of infinite variations that I wish to discuss, combining the brilliant colors inherited from Western paintings and freedom of forms opened up by abstract painters. The only source of inspiration I follow is nature, and its preferred mode of expression is lyricism. The creation comes from pure spontaneity, which means, according to Taoist maxim, ‘to release inner emotions.’ This results in my paintings’ pictorial language where color and design, although they never coincide, move towards the same goal: to awaken the light, shapes and movement.”