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Walasse Ting was born in Wuxi, 125 km northwest of Shanghai. Following Chinese tradition, his parents gave him the name Xiongchun, meaning strength and abundance. To maintain harmony, they complemented it with 'Hua la Si', meaning ‘spoiled’.

From an early age, Ting showed  a strong interest in drawing and painting. Although he attended classes at the Shanghai Academy of Art, he felt the curriculum was not enriching enough, a feeling shared by many independent-minded and talented artists. In his formative years, he frequented the streets of his native Shanghai, where he illuminated the sidewalks with countless chalk drawings.

In 1946, inspired by the I Ching (the Book of Changes), he moved to Hong Kong and exhibited his work in a bookstore. During this period, he began to make his first sales of watercolors to modern art collectors in the United States.

Cover page of a Song Dynasty (c. 1100) edition of the I Ching
Cover page of a Song Dynasty (c. 1100) edition of the I Ching

Walasse Ting and Paris

In 1950, Walasse Ting set out on a journey to France, likely spurred by his expanding success. Upon arrival in Marseille, he carried with him only a cardboard suitcase and a roll of rice paper, carefully wrapped in a vibrant red cloth. With just five US dollars in his pocket and lacking a passport and visa, he faced the daunting challenge of navigating a foreign land without fluency in the French language.


In Paris, Walasse Ting found shelter in a small apartment in the Passage Raguinot in the 12th arrondissement. Despite the limited space available, Ting enthusiastically immersed himself in his artistic pursuits, crafting expansive paintings on both canvas and paper with steadfast dedication. Despite not having enough room to step back and see his artwork clearly, he remained committed to creating impressive pieces, using old-fashioned brushes to honor his Chinese roots.


In the vibrant artistic milieu of Paris, Walasse Ting encountered Western abstraction for the first time, mesmerized by the groundbreaking works of luminaries such as Picasso and Matisse. These encounters left an indelible mark on him, particularly his profound admiration for Matisse. In a tribute to the esteemed artist, Ting made the decision to transform the final syllable of his given name 'Hua La Si' to '-sse', thus giving rise to the iconic identity of "Walasse Ting" that would come to be revered across Europe, America, and beyond.

Walasse Ting, Untitled, 59.5 x 98 cm, acrylic on rice paper, artist’s stamp. (Gallery Delaive)
Walasse Ting, Untitled, 59.5 x 98 cm, acrylic on rice paper, artist’s stamp. (Gallery Delaive)

Walasse Ting and COBRA

Throughout the 1950s, Ting's fame steadily increased. He lived in poverty, but artistically, he took important steps. One notable milestone was his participation in a group exhibition at the esteemed Facchetti gallery in Paris, where he established a friendship with Pierre Alechinsky. During this time, Ting shared his expertise with Alechinsky, teaching him the unique techniques of painting on rice paper, and the duo collaborated on several works (their so-called four-handed paintings).


Through Alechinsky, Walasse Ting was introduced to the CoBrA artists, a connection that was not surprising given the movement's early emphasis on the fusion of painting and poetry. Ting was particularly drawn to the work of Karel Appel, with whom he later exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1965. This exhibition featured Ting alongside renowned artists such as Lucebert, Asger Jorn, Christian Dotremont, and the poet Bert Schierbeek. By this time, Walasse Ting had already published his own poetry collection "My Shit and My Love”.

Walasse Ting and Karel Appel, signed photo, 1993
Walasse Ting and Karel Appel, signed photo, 1993

Walasse Ting and New York

In 1959, Walasse Ting embarked on his American journey, settling in New York City. He established his studio on 100 West 25th Street in Manhattan. The windows and walls of this studio were soon filled with paint that Walasse Ting splashed like rain on his canvas and rice paper. It was during this period that Ting crossed paths with Sam Francis, whose acquaintance would open doors to the realms of pop art and abstract expressionism. One memorable evening, amidst gatherings of fellow artists at Francis's apartment, the concept emerged to encapsulate the prevailing trends in contemporary visual arts. Apart from forming a friendship with Sam Francis , he also socialized with famous artists Joan Mitchell, Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann.

In 1964, the iconic "One Cent Life" was unveiled to the world. Revered not only as a masterpiece of artistic design but also as a vivid visual and psychedelic testament to the spirit of the sixties, the publication marked a pivotal moment in artistic history. Alongside Ting's pulsating street poetry, "One Cent Life" featured 62 lithographs by prominent artists of the era, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Kogelnick, Robert Indiana, Alan David, Tom Wesselmann, Sam Francis, Asger Jorn and Karel Appel .

A Penny's Life by Walasse Ting, edited by Sam Francis - 1964
"A Penny's Life" by Walasse Ting, edited by Sam Francis - 1964

Walasse Ting in the 1970s

Throughout the Seventies, Walasse Ting's artistic journey took a transformative turn, blending Chinese calligraphy with Western abstraction to create a unique pictorial synthesis. Embracing a figurative style, Ting's focus shifted towards portraying the female form, his ultimate muse, in a style that has since become world-renowned.


In Ting's original artworks, acrylic paint on rice paper burst forth in vibrant neon and fluorescent hues, depicting 'always the woman' in various poses – sensual, exotic, European, or Asian – surrounded by parrots, grasshoppers, cats, horses, flowers, and fruits.


Ting's artistic prowess earned him exhibitions in prestigious galleries worldwide, with his works proudly showcased in esteemed museums ranging from the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam to the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim in New York. His influence extended to museums in Denmark, Israel, and Iceland, and notably in China, where his works were enthusiastically reclaimed by his homeland.


In the vibrant streets of New York City, Ting became a distinctive presence, adorned in extravagant suits and cruising in a striking blue or bright pink Rolls Royce. His studio in Greenwich Village became a sanctuary for countless muses, from admirers to lovers, embodying the spirit of his youth as the 'spoiled boy’ Hua la Si.


Amidst lavish dinners at upscale restaurants, Ting's warmth and generosity knew no bounds, welcoming all to his table. Yet, in moments of introspection, he retreated into an meditative silence, grappling with melancholy and yearning for his homeland. Then, in bursts of creativity, Ting would immerse himself in painting marathons, unleashing his emotions on paper and canvas with unrivaled intensity.


Throughout the Seventies and Eighties, Ting emerged as one of the most influential artistic voices in the United States. In 1984, following an inspiring journey to Tahiti reminiscent of Gauguin's odyssey, Ting's collection of poems "Peinture sur papier de riz" was published in Paris. This seminal work not only showcased Ting's poetic prowess but also offered a retrospective of 316 exotic paintings created between 1975 and 1980, immortalizing Ting's indelible mark on the art world.

Walasse Ting, Untitled (WT302), 73 x 119 cm, acrylic on straw paper on canvas (Gallery Delaive)
Walasse Ting, Untitled (WT302), 73 x 119 cm, acrylic on straw paper on canvas (Gallery Delaive)

Walasse Ting and Amsterdam

Following the loss of his wife Nathalie in 1983, Walasse Ting goes on a trip with his son Jesse and daughter Mia to Amsterdam. The canals remind him of the town Hangzhou in China. He likes daily life in the Dutch capital so well that he decides to live there permanently.

Walasse Ting and his final years

In 2002, tragedy struck as Walasse Ting suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage, altering the course of his life forever. For eight long years, he resided in a nursing home in Amstelveen, a world away from his homeland, rendered uncommunicative and unable to paint, trapped in a comatose state.


In 2010, Ting passed away, leaving behind a legacy that continues to resonate through the vibrant hues of his paintings. His dynamic colors, pulsating with life, still adorn countless private and museum collections, serving as an enduring tribute to love and vitality.


Though Ting may have departed from this world, his spirit lives on through his art, a timeless celebration of life's beauty and complexity. Immortalized by his artworks, Walasse Ting's legacy transcends time, still offering inspiration and solace to many around the world.

Walasse Ting in Amsterdam
Walasse Ting's studio in Amsterdam

Available works by Walasse Ting

Nico Delaive, the owner of Gallery Delaive, crossed paths with Walasse Ting at the Unlimited art fair in Amsterdam, where Ting was signing his prints. While Nico was waiting to have his print signed, he approached Ting and expressed his interest in acquiring artworks on rice paper. Ting graciously agreed to Nico's request to purchase his art, and from that moment on, their relationship evolved beyond mere business partners to genuine friends, with Nico becoming a frequent visitor to Ting's studio.


So what started as a chance encounter soon blossomed into a close bond, with Delaive becoming Ting's trusted partner in the art world. Over time, Delaive amassed a treasure trove of Ting's distinctive works, featuring lively acrylic paintings on rice paper depicting women surrounded by a menagerie of creatures like parrots, grasshoppers, cats, and more.


To this day, Gallery Delaive proudly represents Walasse Ting, showcasing his vibrant and whimsical creations to art lovers everywhere. Through Delaive's continued efforts, Ting's colorful and captivating artworks find new homes and continue to delight audiences, ensuring that Ting's playful spirit lives on for generations to come.

Nico Delaive with Walasse Ting in Amsterdam.
Nico Delaive with Walasse Ting in Amsterdam.
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