Rita Lee

Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy artist

Prestige Hong Kong - 40 under 40 - - Contents -

Rita lee at work is a thing of beauty — the way she glides an ink-soaked cal­lig­ra­phy brush across the pa­per is mes­meris­ing. To the lay­man, it looks as if she’s per­fected the fine art, but she hes­i­tates to use the word “per­fect”.

“My first cal­lig­ra­phy teacher told me, ‘No one can write an ab­so­lutely per­fect word in the world, no one can per­form with ab­so­lute per­fec­tion, so just try to re­lax and fo­cus,’” she says. “She also taught me to be re­flec­tive while writ­ing. You have to think about how to write bet­ter, how to ad­just to have greater move­ment.”

Lee started cal­lig­ra­phy as a six-yearold, in pri­mary school where her teacher in­spired and in­flu­enced her. “My teacher was so nice and so pa­tient, I re­mem­ber she didn’t re­quest us to prac­tice a lot, she just told us let it flow nat­u­rally. As I grew up, I found that her teach­ing method in­flu­enced me a lot. Slowly but surely, I started to fall in love with cal­lig­ra­phy.”

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Hong Kong Shue Yan Univer­sity, hav­ing ma­jored in mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion and jour­nal­ism, Lee worked in PR (“I re­ally didn’t like the job”) and did cal­lig­ra­phy part-time. Now, she says with glee, she does what she loves full-time. “I quit with­out plan­ning ahead. so it was a strug­gle at first. I was teach­ing cal­lig­ra­phy and I had to be brave to give up ev­ery­thing in the PR in­dus­try; I had to give up my net­work, ti­tle, a sta­ble in­come — but it’s been so worth it.”

Lee has just fin­ished a video shoot re­lat­ing to Hong Kong’s lux­ury-brand cul­ture for a ma­jor client, and she’s got plans for The Year of the Earth Pig (2019). “New Year prod­uct de­sign has been re­ally fun,” she says. “I re­ally en­joy work­ing on this project, as I can share the hap­pi­ness with those who re­ceive the fai chun and my de­signed Chi­nese New Year cards.”

For in­spi­ra­tion, she isn’t just look­ing at the East; her vis­its to Euro­pean mu­se­ums have af­fected her as much as Ori­en­tal scrolls and can­vases. “I found it re­ally in­spir­ing when I vis­ited the Van Gogh Mu­seum in Am­s­ter­dam,” she says. “It gave me a chance to re­flect on how I per­form cal­lig­ra­phy, as I learned about his brush strokes, his im­pasto (where oil paint is laid thickly on the can­vas so that the tex­ture of the brush or palette knife strokes is clearly vis­i­ble). It’s re­ally im­por­tant to widen my hori­zon, not just in the field of cal­lig­ra­phy.”

Will the art form die out in Hong Kong if the new gen­er­a­tion doesn’t adopt it? “Yes, if peo­ple think that cal­lig­ra­phy is re­ally old-school and re­ject it, if they fail to ap­pre­ci­ate it, it will die out,” she says. But, with a re­as­sur­ing smile, she con­tin­ues: “I’m work­ing on how to bal­ance the mod­ern and the tra­di­tional. Like repack­age and re­fresh the im­age. The best part of each day for me is the in­ter­ac­tion I have with young stu­dents. I’m like their friend more than their tu­tor, it’s not like I’m a strict men­tor in a tra­di­tional way. I hope to be a re­laxed and calm­ing in­flu­ence — just like my teacher was.”

“I’m work­ing on how to bal­ance the mod­ern and the tra­di­tional. Like repack­age and re­fresh the im­age of cal­lig­ra­phy”

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