Met this geezer when I was an art student at Leeds Poly and had a scholarship to go to Paris in 1981. I was visiting Atelier 17 and Lacourière. He was printing at Lacourière, and living in Paris. He let me watch him work and I spent a great hour with him. Later when at the Royal College of Art studio at Cite Des Arts I met him again in 1983, inspirational.

Zao Wou-ki, now 82, found his distinctive voice and vocabulary in his mid-thirties, having by that time lived in Paris for a decade. By the end of 1957 he had committed to abstraction, on terms which from the beginning set him apart from the other artists of his circle—Mitchell, Riopelle, Vieira da Silva, Soulages—as much as from his great supporter Henri Michaux. His cypher-like signature, to which he has remained faithful for over fifty years, gives his first name in Chinese characters and his last in a Western orthography. It is emblematic of a stranded cultural identity, recognized from the first by sympathetic critics as the key to his artistic direction. The recognition, however, took the form of a view of Zao’s painting as an exemplary reconciliation of Chinese and European aesthetics, in which the language of modern Western abstraction is enriched by a Chinese sensibility rooted in the past.

(From the essay by Jonathan Hay)