STROKES OF GENIUS
The M K Lau Collection presents an intimate encounter with rare 19th- and 20th-century Chinese ink and brush paintings in Hong Kong.
The goal of Chinese ink wash painting is not to reproduce, but to capture spirit. When painting a tiger, for example, the aim is not to replicate its muscles or stripes exactly, but to depict its regal countenance or latent ferocity. This expression of the style – which dates back to the fifth century AD – may have changed over history, but the intent is still the same.
Focusing on the 19th and 20th centuries, the M K Lau Collection is one of Asia’s finest private collections of Chinese ink and brush paintings. Its current exhibition in Hong Kong, titled Intimate Encounters, zooms in on a particular genre – handscrolls and albums. Meant as an interactive experience, such works reveal themselves gradually as a handscroll is unrolled or when the leaves of an album are turned.
“Our collection has a wealth of materials that allows a variety of curatorial approaches,” says Catherine Maudsley, curator and senior adviser of the M K Lau Collection. “For this, we have organised the paintings based on subject matter – flower-and-bird ( hua niao), human- and- animals ( ren wu) and landscapes ( shan shui). There is also a generally geographic journey; the great masters Zhang Daqian and Pu Ru were known by the phrase Nan Zhang Bei Pu – Zhang in the south, Pu in the north.”
The masters of the era are all represented, including Zhang, Pu, Ding Yanyong, Ju Lian, Lu Yanshao and Wu Hu Fan. Lesserknown artists are also showcased in the collection of 50 pieces to spotlight specific artistic merit. Liu Danzhai’s Water Festival handscroll, for example, is a peerless narrative of the Dai tribe’s littleknown Water Festival. Another major highlight is Pu’s handscroll study of the five famous pine trees of the Jietai Temple in Beijing.
First shown in Beijing last year, Intimate Encounters coincides with Art Basel Hong Kong, bringing an international eye to the collection. The exhibition is held at Qube in PMQ until 5 April. pmq.org. hk ≠