More than 50 representative works by the Lingnan master Chao Shao-an selected from the collection of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, including a number of new items acquired in recent years, will be on show at the museum from today (November 28) until May 10, 2010.
The exhibition, "The Enchanting Brush: Selected Works of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy by Chao Shao-an from the Museum Collection", features his paintings and calligraphy, offering the public an excellent opportunity to understand the artist's achievements and his contribution to the world of art.
When the Heritage Museum was first established, Chao gave it unstinting support by donating several thousand items from his collection, including works of Chinese painting and calligraphy, sketch books, seals, poem manuscripts, snap shots, newspaper and magazine clippings, books and video tapes, which enabled the museum to develop the Chao Shao-an Gallery and a reconstruction of Chao's Chanyan (Charming Cicadas) Studio inside it. For nearly half a century, Chao pursued the art of Chinese painting and gave painting lessons concurrently. His students, such as Ou Haonian, Hu Yuji, Lin Hukui, Zhao Shiguang (1916-2007), Li Rukuang and Wu Yueliu, have followed his path and taught Chinese painting in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, North America and Canada, nurturing the development of Chinese painting overseas in recent decades.
Chao Shao-an (1905–1998) began studying painting with Gao Qifeng (1889-1933), founder of the Tianfeng (Heavenly Wind) Pavilion art studio in Guangzhou, when he was 16 and inherited the eclectic concept of embracing east and west, old and new. Among Gao's students, Chao and six others were most outstanding. Known as the "Tianfeng Seven", these emerging artists were Zhou Yifeng (1890-1982), Zhang Kunyi (1895-1969), Ye Shaobing (1896-1968), He Qiyuan (1899-1970), Huang Shaoqiang (1901-1942), Rong Shushi (1903-1996) and Chao.
With his passion and studious work, Chao quickly made a name in the art world. Awarded with the International Art Gold Medal at the Belgium Centenary Independence World Fair, Brussels, in 1930, he drew great attention and acclaim. In that same year, he founded the Lingnan Art Studio and began teaching painting.
From the 1950s, he held exhibitions and gave talks and painting demonstrations abroad. During these trips, Chao not only sought inspiration from foreign cultural elements which he incorporated into his artistic works, but also expanded the latitude of his landscape painting, and further echoed his determination to develop the art of Chinese painting abroad.
After settling in Hong Kong in 1948, Chao re-established the Lingnan Art Studio, and organised a number of joint exhibitions with other members of the Tianfeng Studio in the territory. He was also an active organiser of painting associations. During the half century that he called Hong Kong home, Chao built a reputation in the local art community.
Chao began to paint his travel impressions painstakingly in the 1950s. The sights of southwestern China where he briefly lived during the war were prime subjects. Such examples are numerous, including "Sunset by the River Li" which depicts the Guilin landscape, and "Landscape of Sichuan" which depicts the breathtaking Three Gorges. Most of them adopt the theme of the natural landscape at dusk, characterised by a thick evening haze over the columnar hills of Guilin or the sheer cliffs of the Three Gorges, a symbolic imagery that expresses boundlessness and memories of the past.
From his global travels, Chao learned that the world, vast as it is, offers many visual wonders. Such wonders often appear in his paintings. For example, "Ruins", created in 1954, features the famous Roman Arches and the Colosseum of Italy. Set in a cold misty mood with dark crows, evening twilight and late autumn elements, this painting adds a touch of nostalgia to the ancient city.
Bird and animal paintings by Chao inherit the Lingnan tradition of portraying wild beasts, including paintings of tigers. "Tiger", created in 1965, expressing both the innocence and ferociousness of the animal, exhibits a different taste from the mainstream. Chao also appreciated the beauty of peacocks. "White peacock", painted in 1969, features a white peacock roosting leisurely on a tree. To highlight the peacock's outstanding beauty, Chao painstakingly details the delicacy and colour variations of its plumage. The tree trunk in the background is finished in broad brushstrokes to shun details, and offset by tonal ink and water that highlight texture. The whole piece perfectly blends the colour accents of Japanese paintings and the brilliant brushwork of Chinese paintings.
Another work, "In moonlight over the pond", displays Chao's expertise in creating the right mood. The subjects of this painting are a number of sparrows perched on a lotus stem. Huddled in a corner of the deserted and frosted lotus pond, they and the environment seem to have become one.
Besides painting, Chao also enjoyed calligraphy. Early calligraphic works bear a resemblance to his mentor's style. Later ones reveal that he had developed his individual traits.
Located at 1 Man Lam Road, Sha Tin, the Heritage Museum opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. On Christmas Eve and Chinese New Year's Eve, it will be closed at 5pm. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays) and the first two days of the Chinese New Year. Admission is $10, with a half-price concession for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and full-time students. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
Paid car parking is available at the Heritage Museum. Those who prefer to use public transport may take the MTR Ma On Shan Line and get off at the Che Kung Temple Station, which is within three minutes' walk of the museum.
For enquiries, call 2180 8188. For details of the exhibition, visit the Heritage Museum's website at http://hk.heritage.museum/.
Ends/Saturday, November 28, 2009
"Sunset by the River Li", created by Chao Shao-an in 1968, depicts the Guilin landscape.
"Tiger", created by Chao Shao-an in 1965, expresses both the innocence and ferociousness of the animal.
"White peacock", created by Chao Shao-an in 1969, painstakingly details the delicacy and colour variations of the peacock's plumage to highlight its outstanding beauty.
"In moonlight over the pond" displays Chao Shao-an's expertise in creating the right mood. The subjects of this painting are a number of sparrows perched on a lotus stem. Huddled in a corner of the deserted and frosted lotus pond, they and the environment seem to have become one.