Juin Octobre, 1985 was painted by Zou Wou-Ki in 1985, but it is not clear if the artist had started painting this masterpiece in June, and ended in October. The painting itself does not depict a certain object, group of people, or even a landscape like traditional Chinese paintings do. As a matter of fact, it shows nothing but bodies of colors. To be specific, it only shows a blurb of bright yellow in the center, with bluish darkness and some green filling up the edges and the corners – leading to the conclusion that this is an abstract painting. The colors in this painting are not separated by a definitive border, but there is a sense of depth and sophistication, where the yellow part of the painting is hollow. The colors merge together where they connect, as if blue, black, and green drops of paint have been dropped in a body of bright yellow colored water. This single painting on a single canvas followed Zou Wou Ki’s signature style in painting – oil on canvas. 

[Image of Juin Octobre, 1985. Obtained from https://www.sothebys.com/en/articles/the-largest-ever-work-by-zao-wou-ki-leads-sothebys-hong-kong-autumn-sales]

    Expert opinions lead to the conclusion that Zou was greatly affected by the ideology of Zen Buddhism and Daoism (also known as Taoism) (Shnin, Yang 2021, 129). Zen Buddhism emphasizes present-moment awareness and non-conceptual understanding (Suzuki 1991, 34), and Daoism beliefs generally assume nature is what controls things, not people (Kohn 2009, 20). Zao has also lectured his students to “forget the topic and forget about everything in the world (Shnin, Yang 2021, 129)” and emphasized the importance of “nothingness”, which led to an art-work like Juin Octobre, 1985. The painting is quite massive, measuring about 10 meters in length and 2.8m in height, and from my understanding of the beliefs that Zou had in mind when he was painting, I came to the conclusion that this majestic size of the painting probably represented the vastness of “nothingness”. The fact that nothing, except colors, were shown in the painting without any figures or symbols in such a large painting is what made me think this way. The feeling of depth (yellow part) created by Zao also creates a sense of hollowness, which to me allowed me to focus on the presence of me looking at the painting, as if the void was supposed to be filled with my (the viewer) awareness. 



Kohn, Livia. Introducing daoism. JBE Online Books, 2009.

Shin, Ryan, and Xuhao Yang. “Culturally Responsible Approach to Teaching East              Asian Art in the Classroom.” Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education              38, no. 1 (2021).

Sotheby’s. https://www.sothebys.com/en/articles/the-largest-ever-work-by-zao-wou-ki-leads-sothebys-hong-kong-autumn-sales.

Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro. An introduction to zen buddhism. Grove Press, 1991.