by Four Hong Kong Masters
15/6/2018 - 11/8/2018
Landscape is an important theme of Chinese painting. Chinese landscape painting not only depicts natural sceneries, it also emphasizes the relation between nature and mankind. Nowadays, with the influence of western painting, many artists search for new approaches to conventional art. Using new ink techniques and compositions, they pave the way for an unprecedented form of Chinese painting.
The exhibition features near 50 landscape paintings by Wucius Wong, Wong Hau Kwei, Shen Ping and Hung Hoi. These four local artists achieve divergent styles, ranging from figurative to abstract and realistic to expressive. Their artworks reveal their ideal landscapes and their innovations in modern ink paintings.
Message from director
Paintings are predominantly of human figures in earlier periods of ancient China. It was not until the Tang dynasty (618-907) that Landscape paintings began to prevail. The prosperous economy at the time provided much stability and fostered a new kind of social activity - excursions! The admiration for nature became unprecedented and painters depicted sceneries from sightseeing explorations on paper, giving rise to the practice of landscape painting. Due to the frequent use of the colour green, landscape paintings are referred to as “blue and green landscape paintings” (青綠山水).
Chinese painters value life sketching. Not only do they paint actual sceneries, they also aim to depict the delicate relationship between human and nature. In their view, mountains are the land where humans inhabit while water that flows above and below mountains represent the sky above. When the sky and the land harmoniously coexist, a perfect peace is formulated; this is the concept of “unity of nature and mankind” (天人合一). It is not surprising then that mountains are always the main subject in landscape paintings. As mountains and rivers are interconnected, landscape paintings are also called “shanshui” (山水).
In the past, traditional Chinese paintings are called “guohua” (國畫), which translates to national painting. Differentiating from “guohua”, the term “ink painting” (水墨畫) has been used in recent years. “Ink painting” is a new form of Chinese painting which eradicates conventional approaches and it has further evolved to “modern ink painting” (現代水墨畫) which emphasizes its avant-garde nature.
Today, landscape is still the mainstream theme for Chinese painters as opposed to figures or flower-and-bird. “Guohua”, “ink painting”, and “modern ink painting” generally describe landscape paintings as represented in these corresponding different styles: “guohua” is realistic, “ink painting” is party realistic, while “modern ink painting” is semi-abstract or completely abstract.
Undoubtedly, “ink painting” is dominant in the Hong Kong art scene. Wucius Wong, Wong Hau Kwei, Shen Ping and Hung Hoi are prominent artists in ink painting.
Wucius Wong likes to apply the traditional aerial view approach and the use of geometrical shapes to divide landscapes into segments, overlapping hills, and intertwining clouds and streams to depict momentous nature. These vivid and lively abstract landscapes were never found before among painters in the past.
Wong Hau Kwei is skilled in bringing traditional features of ink to full play. He stresses the contrast between black and white as well as vague and real in order to depict the juxtaposition of mountains and water. He replaces mountains with buildings, creating illusion between hills and skyscrapers while emphasizing the nature of water. The interesting composition renders serene landscapes.
Shen Ping employs traditional brushes and ink without drawing conventional landscapes. Influenced by Western watercolour painting, he disregards the grandeur of landscapes and renders vivid sceneries in the way of life sketching. At the same time, he uses ink to outline objects which inherit style of traditional Chinese painting. Abstract quality of “ink painting” and “modern ink painting” is not found in his works, while his realistic style surmounts that of “guohua”. The realistic works add interesting flavor to Chinese paintings.
Hung Hoi excels at line drawing and “blue and green landscape painting” (青綠山水). His paintings embody the spirit of “unity of nature and mankind” (天人合一) and inherit the brush and ink elements of traditional Chinese paintings. He integrates actual sceneries with imagined landscapes with a strong foundation on sketching. He innovatively transforms traditional landscape paintings with styles ranging from realistic to expressive, then to abstract.
The four masters have divergent and exclusive styles, but they all value the essence of traditional Chinese painting, including the use of ink and the focus on ambience. They are capable of creating new possibilities in Chinese painting and their amazing work being well received is the best proof of their unique accomplishments.
YEUNG Chun Tong
Editor: MOK Pui Yu, Fiona
2018, hardcover, Chinese/English, 96 pages, 23.5 x 31 cm
A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue featuring over 50 landscape paintings by Wucius Wong, Wong Hau Kwei, Shen Ping and Hung Hoi.