Mak­ing a splash with wa­ter­color

Sun Mu­seum shines the spot­light on a rel­a­tively ne­glected branch of art by show­ing the works of some of HK’s tal­ented wa­ter­col­orists. re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CULTURE HK -

Fifty-five paint­ings by 14 lo­cal artists are now on show at Sun Mu­seum — a non-profit en­tity which has made its mis­sion to pro­mote lo­cal art tra­di­tions and artists. The cur­rent ex­hi­bi­tion, ti­tled “Tones of Fes­ti­val: Mod­ern Hong Kong Wa­ter­colour”, fo­cuses on an art medium not that widely known or ap­pre­ci­ated ex­cept maybe by the con­nois­seurs.

Ac­cord­ing to Ye­ung Chun-tong, the di­rec­tor of Sun Mu­seum and chief cu­ra­tor of the ex­hi­bi­tion, Hong Kong’s art world has tra­di­tion­ally fa­vored works in ink over wa­ter­color paint­ings. “As a re­sult wa­ter­color has lim­ited ap­peal for young artists, and Hong Kong’s art scene has not seen much diver­sity de­vel­op­ing,” said Ye­ung.

The tra­di­tion of wa­ter­color paint­ings be­gan in Europe dur­ing the Re­nais­sance. The tech­nique has been bor­rowed by Chi­nese artists since the be­gin­ning of 18th cen­tury. The tra­di­tion reached its peak in south China in the 19th cen­tury, pri­mar­ily to meet a de­mand from the West for ex­otic, Ori­en­tal land­scapes.

Com­pared with the early spec­i­mens of wa­ter­color paint­ings pro­duced in Hong Kong, present-day prac­ti­tion­ers of the art at­tempt to add new el­e­ments to the genre to bring out the tremen­dous po­ten­tial of the medium, giv­ing the con­nois­seurs more rea­sons to love it. The diver­sity of the medium is beau­ti­fully ex­em­pli­fied in the works by the 14 pain­ters on dis­play at Sun Mu­seum. For in­stance, Tse Lok-yau de­picts night land­scapes us­ing wa­ter­color pig­ments, which was rather rare in the works by his pre­de­ces­sors. His artis­tic sen­si­bil­i­ties are to­tally dif­fer­ent from Liu Cheng-mei’s, who prefers ab­strac­tion to re­al­ism. The Bei­jing-born Liu’s paint­ings are a re­sult of the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween wa­ter and pig­ment. It looks as if she al­lowed dif­fer­ent col­ors to flow freely, over­lap­ping with each other to pro­duce images that are mys­te­ri­ously po­etic.

A di­verse range

Be­tween them­selves the par­tic­i­pat­ing artists span a wide age range. While 82-year-old Kong Kai-ming has more than 50 years of ex­pe­ri­ence as an artist and art teacher be­hind him, Tse Lok-yau, the youngest of the lot, is still a uni­ver­sity stu­dent.

Most of Kong’s paint­ings are very generic Hong Kong land­scapes: fish­ing vil­lages, pools and streams in the New Ter­ri­to­ries, and bustling down­town streets. His paint­ings could be read as a doc­u­men­ta­tion of the de­vel­op­ment and changes of his home­town in the past 50 years.

“I want to demon­strate the unique nat­u­ral and ur­ban views of Hong Kong,” says Kong.

Re­cently Kong has been ex­plor­ing the com­mon­al­i­ties in paint­ing and math­e­mat­ics. The two fields, ac­cord­ing to him, are in­formed by sim­i­lar traits such as ra­tio­nal­ity, or­der­li­ness and value.

“Kong cap­tures fleet­ing mo­ments in na­ture through metic­u­lous brush­strokes and veris­tic col­oration,” said Ye­ung, in­tro­duc­ing Kong’s wa­ter­col­ors at the media pre­view of the ex­hi­bi­tion, liken­ing Kong’s art to pho­to­graphic re­al­ism.

The paint­ings by Cheuk Hiuk­wong and Chan Cho-yan seem to follow the im­pres­sion­ist style. Cheuk’s de­pic­tion of rain is rem­i­nis­cent of some of the works by the Bri­tish land­scape painter Wil­liam Turner. And Chan’s palette of mag­i­cal col­ors as well as his em­pha­sis on the change of light at dif­fer­ent times of the day carry an ob­vi­ous echo of Al­fred Sis­ley and Camille Pis­sarro. Chan’s wa­ter­col­ors ex­ude a sense of tran­quil­ity, con­fer­ring an idyl­lic beauty on busy and crowded places.

Both Mak Siu-fung and Tse Lokyau pre­fer de­pict­ing street scenes. Mak, for­mer chief pho­tog­ra­pher of the News and In­for­ma­tion Division of TVB, has painted the veg­etable and meat mar­kets, road­side food ven­dors and tra­di­tional tem­ples. Some of his works look like a col­lage of nu­mer­ous images, as in a comic strip.

Tse has painted Hong Kong af­ter sun­down. Her pas­sion for paint­ing cityscapes at night re­sults from her in­fat­u­a­tion with sci­ence fic­tion movies. She says she has been a keen watcher of “the set­ting and at­mos­phere” in films like Avatar, some of which must have per­co­lated into her own work. Night lends it­self to mys­tery and imag­i­na­tion and hence has al­ways been a source of artis­tic in­spi­ra­tion to her, she added.

Tse is a huge ad­mirer of the 19th cen­tury French painter Claude Monet, fa­mous for his in­no­va­tions in the study of color and light. The vivid con­trast of light and shadow in Tse’s own works has ob­vi­ous res­o­nances of the paint­ings by her idol.

“Where there is light, there are sto­ries,” Tse said.

Cu­ra­tor Ye­ung Chun-tong is keen to show­case the di­verse range of works Hong Kong’s wa­ter­color artists pro­duce.

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