Artist Richard Texier on Being Inspired by China, Zhao Wou-ki

What started as a chance meeting in Morocco between French artist Richard Texier and Chinese abstract painter Zhao Wou-ki in 1995 developed into a long friendship that then encouraged Texier to venture to China opening new horizons for his practice.

 At a lunch earlier this week at Opera Gallery in Singapore, where he is showcasing some of his pieces, Texier recalled how Zhao acted as a “spiritual father” to him and for years encouraged him to go to China, until he finally decided to do so in 2004. Zhao passed away in April.

“I was very good friends with Wu-ki. He’s the one who really pushed me to go to China. He was really sure it was going to work. He used to speak in enigmatic sentences and one day he told me, ‘You! You are linked to the spirit of the yellow mountain.’” Texier recalled, adding, “It took me a long time to understand what he meant, but the Yellow mountain is an initiation trip for Chinese artists, a bit like Italy was for European artists in the 18th century, or North Africa was for Delacroix in the 19th century.”

Texier held the first of many exhibitions in China in 2004 at the Meishuguan in Shanghai, where for a while he set up a temporary workshop in a local foundry.

This is where he first began working on the theme of hybridization, creating mythical animals and demigods acting as guardians. First inspired by the Han Dynasty bronzes, his earlier sculptures had some of the bronze’s distinctive carvings, yet were also a contemporary interpretation. “At first I was doing this very discreetly because as I was manipulating the traditional design I was concerned I would offend culturally. But the Chinese actually loved it,” he recalled.

The hybridization series evolved as the sculptor started to carve out the inside of his animals. Creating his most recent Bionic series, the envelope of the body is made of waves that do not follow the anatomical structure of the animal, but seeks to express a feeling of movement, energy, and fluidity. “I’m trying to make these bronze sculptures as light as possible, which is quite paradoxical given they are extremely heavy,” he muses. Eleven of his monumental-scale Biopic sculptures are currently peppered along the upper end of Orchard Road, the main shopping avenue in Singapore. The artist also has several pieces at the Opera Gallery, as part of a more general exhibition on the abstract movement, where one of Zao Wou ki pieces is also exhibited .

Texier started his career as a painter and only really turned to sculpture in the 1990s. His work is imbued with his fascination for astronomy, the cosmos, and mythical objects. “Art is a burning passion for me. There is a real urgency to produce. I can become obsessed by my work,” he said.

“The Universe of the Abstract Masters and Richard Texier” runs at Opera Gallery until October 13

To see some of the sculptures, click on the slideshow.

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