Visitors to the Hong Kong Museum of Art will be able to appreciate works created in the past few decades by Professor Johnson Chow Su-sing in an exhibition entitled "Johnson Chow Su-sing: A Tranquil Heart in Art", running from tomorrow (October 15) to December 4. Professor Chow is recognised as a key figure in the heritage of the Wu school of Chinese painting, which dates back to the Ming dynasty.
Featuring 61 landscape and bird-and-flower paintings, the exhibition will show the different stages of Professor Chow's pursuits in artistic creation over the past six decades. It will also feature a fine selection of Professor Chow's scholarly works, as well as interviews conducted with 10 of his peers and friends as an important documentation of his art.
The opening ceremony of the exhibition was officiated today (October 14) by the Under Secretary for Home Affairs, Ms Florence Hui; the Museum Expert Adviser of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Professor Mayching Kao; collector Mr Stewart Wong; Professor Chow; and the Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Mr Tang Hoi-chiu.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Ms Hui said that the exhibition includes 32 paintings that have been generously donated by Professor Chow to the Hong Kong Museum of Art.
She noted that Professor Chow was born in the early 20th century, a period that saw vigorous changes in both the political and cultural arenas of China. Growing up in the changing times and in the midst of struggles between traditional and modern thinking, Professor Chow looked to the masters of painting and calligraphy of the past but was not constrained by tradition. Rooted in the deep foundations of Chinese painting, Professor Chow has, however, been able to accommodate modernity and has established his uniqueness in the art circle.
One statement can summarise Professor Chow's lifelong artistic philosophy: "While there is an end to life, there are no boundaries in art." Mr Tang noted that Professor Chow began painting at the age of 8 and assiduously continued his artistic pursuits for nearly 80 years. In addition to being skilled in the genre of landscape painting, Professor Chow is equally proficient in bird-and-flower painting, the classics, poetry and calligraphy. He is a multifaceted literati painter. His paintings of birds and flowers inherit the refined and pristine style of the Wu school, evolving from tastes in ink painting that date back to the Song and Yuan dynasties. Influenced by his acute observations of nature, Professor Chow's paintings fully capture the charm of their subjects, reaching a level of sophistication and simplicity while reflecting the artist's tranquil state of mind.
Mr Tang added that Professor Chow has not ceased promoting Chinese art and culture, even when he moved to North America. His dedication to the subject encompasses a range of activities, including exhibiting, demonstrating, writing and lecturing at colleges and universities. His teaching has resulted in many followers of his art around the world. Moreover, Professor Chow founded the Chinese Canadian Artists Federation in Vancouver, Canada, and was elected as its first president.
Professor Chow was born in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, in 1923. He began to learn Chinese painting under the guidance of his father, Zhou Chilu, and the classics, poetry and calligraphy from his uncle, Zhou Mutian, at the age of 8. He graduated from Suzhou Fine Arts College in 1944. After migrating to Hong Kong in 1949, Professor Chow taught at the Department of Fine Arts in New Asia College, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, from 1962 to 1971. He emigrated to California, the United States, in 1971 and became a tutor of Chinese painting at the Department of Extramural Studies of the University of California, Los Angeles, while also serving in various roles including Chinese Art Curator of the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. Since 1980, Professor Chow has been living in Vancouver.
Professor Chow has established himself as a key figure in the heritage of the Wu school of Chinese painting outside China, receiving more than 50 major awards and honours over the years, including commendations by the governments of the United States and Canada. He has held more than 170 solo and joint exhibitions and his works are found in the permanent collections of museums and cultural institutions as well as private collections in places including the Mainland, the United States, Canada and Singapore. He is also the author of numerous monographs and treatises on the appreciation, history and techniques of Chinese painting. His major publications include "Discourses on the Paintings of Plum, Orchid, Bamboo and Chrysanthemum", "Bada Shanren and His Art" and more.
The Hong Kong Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm from Sunday to Wednesday and on Fridays, and from 10am to 8pm on Saturdays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays).
For details of the exhibition, please visit the webpage of the Hong Kong Museum of Art at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/Museum/Arts/english/exhibitions/exhibitions01_oct11_01.html or call 2721 0116.
Ends/Friday, October 14, 2011
The Hong Kong Museum of Art's latest exhibition, "Johnson Chow Su-sing: A Tranquil Heart in Art", was officially opened today (October 14). The officiating guests at the ceremony were (from left) the Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Mr Tang Hoi-chiu; the Museum Expert Adviser of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Professor Mayching Kao; the Under Secretary for Home Affairs, Ms Florence Hui; Professor Johnson Chow Su-sing; and collector Mr Stewart Wong.
At today's opening ceremony of the exhibition, Professor Chow and his wife generously donated their valuable collection, a hanging scroll entitled "Plum Blossom and Bamboo" by the great master of Chinese painting, Zhang Daqian, to the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Pictured is the officiating guests and the donation.
"Ten Thousand Plum Blossoms Studio" by Professor Chow. As a native of Suzhou, Professor Chow was deeply influenced by the art of the Wu school from an early age. His early paintings, distinguished by the use of steady and smooth brushwork as well as a celestial atmospheric presence, conveyed a strong sense of the Wu style and conformed to the aesthetic ideal of the literati. As he gradually developed his own technique, his work surpassed the meticulousness characteristic of the Wu school. Instead of adapting a traditional format of landscape painting, he created a unique style with a semi-abstract expression intent on exploring the fluid movement of ink and each painting's intellectual and emotional elements.
"The Grand Canyon" by Professor Chow. After moving to the United States and later to Canada, Professor Chow had opportunities to visit great mountains and rivers in foreign lands. Inspired by Shitao, who said "Seeking out all the exotic peaks to make them his draft", he actively explored many wonderful landscapes around the world to better understand the mysteries of nature. Along his extensive journeys, he considered unique compositions of scenery that no other painter had ever attempted. Having experienced the vitality of nature during his trips, he composed a succession of landscape paintings consisting of innovative and panoramic views.
"Huangshan, China" by Professor Chow. Having wandered through foreign lands and successfully contributed to the cause of traditional Chinese aesthetics abroad for over half a century, Professor Chow won acclaim as the significant heir to the tradition of the Wu school outside China. As someone who had always missed his homeland, he finally had a chance to return to China in the 1980s, visiting its famous mountains and rivers. From then on, he made use of opportunities offered by exhibiting and lecturing in Hong Kong and the Mainland to tour the beautiful landscapes of China. Upon each encounter, he returned with complex feelings for the places he visited and effectively translated them into a large body of work on the theme of Chinese landscapes. In particular, Huangshan and the Three Gorges stand out as his favourite subjects.
"City Flower of Hong Kong" by Professor Chow. Professor Chow once said, "The value of a bird-and-flower painting lies in its capacity to bear the painter's noble thoughts and praise for life, to refresh his mind, to purify his soul, while expressing a close relationship between mankind and nature." A perfect bird-and-flower painting should be able to convey the natural delights of flowers, fruits and fowl while allowing viewers to explore the beauty of life. Therefore, the rule for a painter of birds and flowers is to love nature, understand it thoroughly and constantly learn from it. Apart from cultivating a passion for nature, artists should also embrace the importance of integrity. They should be motivated in the study of the motifs of ancient objects, rubbings and carvings, as well as the painting scrolls by the old masters and contemporary works, for all these can enrich the cultural impact of their work.
Pictured is the work of Zhang Daqian, "Plum Blossom and Bamboo", which is now donated to the Hong Kong Museum of Art by Professor Chow.