20/10/2023 - 16/12/2023
The Hong Kong Artists Society was established in 1981, a renowned organisation of painters. Under the theme of “Peaceful Colour”, the exhibition features 140 paintings by 70 member artists.
Victoria Peak is a distinguished hill in Hong Kong. Previously surrounded by fishing villages, the area has now developed into a Central Business District. To create the latest works, the participating artists incorporated various materials, subjects, and styles. The exhibits exemplify the “Peak spirit” of Hong Kong people striving for a prosperous and peaceful society. Even though the works are small, they embody the Chinese tradition of seeking sincerity, benevolence, and beauty through art, thus reviving Chinese culture in Hong Kong.
Ancient Chinese painters emphasised nature sketching with the aim to capture reality as opposed to relying on their sole imagination to paint natural scenes. This does not mean that they painted only what they saw. Instead, using their preferred perspective, painters captured their scenery by pursuing its beauty within their hearts to realistically express their true feelings.
The ancient Chinese depicted a subject’s “natural beauty” by the realistic approach and would also elicit “artistic beauty” through a variety of concepts. This method is not abstract as the form and original appearance of a scene are kept. The process involves the transformation of being realistic to becoming expressive, bringing out meaningful insights beyond the painting itself. To the ancient Chinese, it was crucial to express auspicious beauty.
For instance, it was common for artists to compose a painting of peach blossom, lotus, chrysanthemum, and plum blossom. These flowers correspond to the four seasons i.e., when they are bloomed together, they would bring blessings for a smooth peaceful year. It was also popular for artists to paint a mouse by an oil lamp which ought to be terrifying at first. However, given a mouse symbolises zi (child) in the Chinese sexagenary cycle while a lamp connotates boys in Chinese ideology, the blessing for posterity made this combination a lot more adorable. Other auspicious homophonic themes such as chicken and parrots were favoured by Chinese painters. The pronunciations of these birds sound like the Chinese characters “propitious” and “wise and brave” respectively.
All these years, the ancient Chinese has brought out the auspicious implications this way; through the creation of art. Painting serves as a medium to convey sincerity, benevolence, and beauty.
There are two famous mountains in Hong Kong: the Lion Rock and the Victoria Peak. The Lion Rock is located in a former slum area which has been developed into a residential area of different populations; reflecting Hong Kong locals’ core values of diligence and perseverance through their struggles. As for the Peak (Tai Ping Shan), the wealthy reside at the mid-levels overlooking the central business district. Now as the city centre, the peak is an excellent example of how Hong Kong has developed from a fishing village to a metropolis. “The Spirit of Tai Ping Shan” derived from the peak, represents people’s effort in building a prosperous society as well as their wish for a peaceful world. Comparatively, the Peak portrays the growth of Hong Kong better with its impression.
Today, Hong Kong painters combine Western and Chinese painting techniques with the aim to depict the peaceful and sublime view of Victoria Peak; this is the root of Hong Kong art. The peaceful messages they want to express are the same as the auspiciousness advocated by the ancient Chinese, as well as the sincerity, benevolence, and beauty advocated by the modern Chinese. Beauty is what they want to pursue through art.
The ancient Chinese painted small paintings mainly on fan surfaces. Fan painting was created by the literati as a form of gift as well as an artwork for appreciation and discussion when one literatus gathered with another. It is difficult to depict scenery on limited space yet artists nowadays choose to portray their romantic feelings for Hong Kong on L30 x W40 cm sized paper. Similar to artists painting on the small spaces of fan surfaces in the past, these artists are indirectly recreating the painting aesthetic of the ancient Chinese.
With the participation of over 70 artists, this exhibition showcases over 100 paintings with various materials, themes, and styles. Although they are not large-scale paintings, they inherit the tradition of Chinese painting, stepping forward to revive the Chinese culture in the Hong Kong art scene.
YEUNG Chun Tong
Director, Sun Museum
Hong Kong Artists Society: Peaceful Colour
Editor: YEUNG Chun Tong
2023, paperback, Chinese/English, 156 pages, 20 x 26 cm
A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue featuring 142 paintings by 71 participating artists.