Modern Hong Kong Printmaking
24/03/2017 - 10/06/2017
Prints in the past were published to promulgate information. Today’s printing technology has superseded traditional printmaking. Liberated from the confines of reproduction, prints have become an individual art form with potent possibilities for artistic expression. This exhibition features 35 recent prints by 9 Hong Kong artists as well as one artwork from each artist in their specialisation such as ceramics and ink painting. It demonstrates how artists can reproduce their artistic flair on print.
WAN Lai Kuen, LAM Tung Pang, CHOW Chun Fai, LING Chin Tang, CHAN Yuk Keung, WONG Lai Yan, LO Kwan Chi, CHUNG Tai Fu, TSE Yim On
Message from director
China invented printing technique. Prior to that, books were once produced by hand before its invention. Due to high production cost, books were intended for royal families, nobles and officials. They were however essential for the promotion of education and ideas. Therefore, the wealth of knowledge derived from books became a valuable asset.
Prior to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), important books were locked away in imperial court. That is, until the advancement of the printing technique. Books were massively produced with elaborate illustrations and became available to various members of society, including scholars, merchants, peasants, and artisans. As a result, the information contained in books, history, literature, philosophy, medicine and art and culture could be disseminated to a broader audience. Correspondingly, social development took a great leap forward together with Chinese culture blossoming in an unprecedented manner.
In the artistic spectrum, woodblock print was already in place in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The late Ming Dynasty introduced printed illustrations in most books. Illustrations such as figures and landscapes served to enhance comprehension as well as a newfound appreciation for literature. Surprisingly among illustrations were works by renowned artists, which were then engraved by artisans. As in the case of books, printmaking essentially eliminated the exclusivity associated with paintings retained for royals and officials by making art and culture more prevalent to society.
Compared to hand painted artwork that are produced singly, print had the luxury of being reproduced. Economy of scale lowered the cost of prints considerably. Nevertheless, printmaking beholds its unique artistic value in composition, colour and engraving techniques.
Woodblock print in China has a profound history. Apart from book illustration, the nianhua, also known as the “New Year print” is an interesting rendition of the woodblock print. The New Year print adopts full images of various subjects beloved by the masses including characters in Chinese Opera, vivid sceneries, and intricate flowers and animals. The decorative symbols evoke divine blessings and good fortune. During the Ming and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, they popularised the performing and visual arts, education, and religion throughout China. These symbols resonated strongly with the masses and became fashionable as an art form.
Printmaking flourished rapidly in the West resulting in the proliferation of a variety of new techniques such as screen printing and etching. Today, printmaking has become obsolete as book illustrations are rarely woodblock prints and New Year prints are no longer prevalent in the market. As is the case in Hong Kong, printmaking is neglected in favour of ink painting and installation art amidst the current art scene.
The museum extends its warmest gratitude to the nine Hong Kong artists for sharing with visitors their current printmaking artworks. Along with the prints, the exhibition is comprised of artwork of different mediums created by each artist in their respective fields of ceramics, paintings in ink, and paintings in acrylic. This is our new attempt to demonstrate the artists’ burgeoning creative endowment through printmaking. This exploration is also a journey for artists to communicate their individual creativity and perception by multi copies of prints. Prints accelerate circulation of artworks and provide an opportunity for artistic exchanges in the Hong Kong art scene.
Traditional printmaking once served as a means of photography. It met the demand for mass production that accelerates information storage and communication. Today, printmaking has deviated from its original purpose and become an art in its own right. It is not limited to book illustrations and New Year prints but stands as an art form representative of different ideas. This should be the new pathway for printmaking in Hong Kong.
YEUNG Chun Tong
Editor: QIU Su Min
2017, hardcover, Chinese/English, 80 pages, 26 x 27 cm
A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue featuring 44 artworks by 9 Hong Kong artists, such as WAN Lai Kuen, LAM Tung Pang, CHOW Chun Fai and LING Chin Tang.