Lu Xun, a writer, thinker and artist in modern China, launched the Modern Woodcut movement in the early 1930s in Shanghai, promoting the use of woodblock print art as a means to express sympathy for the people's suffering and to call for their awakening. Lu's thinking deeply moved the young Huang Xinbo, who started his career in woodcut art under the influence and guidance of Lu and created numerous works throughout his life.
More than 200 works by Huang will be showcased at a new exhibition entitled "Imprint of the Heart: Artistic Journey of Huang Xinbo" at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum from tomorrow (November 3) until February 27 next year, giving visitors an opportunity to appreciate the artistic journey of this influential 20th century print artist.
The opening ceremony of the exhibition was held today (November 2). The officiating guests were the Assistant Director (Heritage and Museums) of Leisure and Cultural Services, Dr Louis Ng; the daughter of Huang Xinbo, Professor Huang Yuan; the Expert Adviser of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Ms Jane Liu; the Chairman of the Hong Kong Open Printshop, Mr Fung Ho-yin; the master in painting, Mr Huang Yongyu; and the Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Ms Belinda Wong.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Dr Ng said that Huang was a famous 20th century print artist whose works are mainly associated with the lives of the people. Dr Ng also said that the artist, through artistic creation, revealed his deep empathy toward the struggles of the people, demonstrating a deep humanistic concern toward renjian - the "worldly life" or "mortal world" - and praising life as well. He said Huang not only devoted himself to art, but also established an art club and publishing house, organised exhibitions and issued publications, giving impetus to Hong Kong's art development.
In the 1930s, Lu Xun introduced to China the woodcut art of Europe, with subjects mainly concerning war, revolution and society. This medium facilitated the extensive dissemination of anti-war propaganda during China's dark years of conflict. The art form was brought to Hong Kong in the 1930s by artists arriving from the Mainland, and Huang was one of them. He was also a pioneer of the modern Chinese woodcut.
The exhibition depicts Huang's artistic career with six sections arranged chronologically and under different themes. Using this structure, the idea of renjian is employed, referring to the Human Art Club and the Human Publishing House Huang established and at the same time suggesting his artistic approaches.
The theme of the first section is "A First Probe into Humanity: The Embryonic Years", which introduces how Huang started his print art journey. In 1934, Huang was admitted to the Shanghai School of Fine Art, where he practised sketching and oil painting and self-studied in woodcutting. Huang's works were heavily influenced by Lu Xun and were also selected by Lu to be included in his "Woodcut Records", the first anthology of the new generation of Chinese woodcuts.
The second section is entitled "The Patriotic Heart: The Sino-Japanese War Years", which looks into how the misery and turmoil of the Second Sino-Japanese War inspired Huang to express his indignation through his art. In 1938, Huang joined the Communist Party of China and took up the job of designing publication covers while creating caricatures and propaganda paintings, so as to unite the people as well as promote resistance and rally for national salvation. During this period, Huang produced more than 200 woodcuts that illustrated his sophistication in both artistic concepts and techniques. Meanwhile, having shaken off the influences of European and Russian printmaking, Huang's unique personal style was truly taking shape. Later, Huang journeyed to Hong Kong. Following the fall of Hong Kong, Huang was forced to flee to Guilin and co-organised a major art exhibition, "Hong Kong in Distress", with artists that included Yu Feng and Yang Qiaoren. The exhibition was focused on depictions of life in exile during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War, and created a profound impact on the community. After the end of the Sino-Japanese War was declared, Huang returned to Hong Kong and became a journalist at the Chinese Business Daily. In addition to producing a number of woodcuts and publishing many news reports, Huang also took up oil painting in an attempt to render the world of people in a new medium.
The third section, "A Compassionate Soul: The Human Art Club Years", tells how Huang and his friends established the Human Art Club and the Human Publishing House, actively promoting art and cultural activities through exhibitions and publications, and making great contributions to the development of the arts and culture of post-war Hong Kong. Works produced in this period reflected the lives of the working class in Hong Kong, and serve as valuable testament to post-war Hong Kong society.
Entitled "The Soulful Quest: The New China Years", the fourth section tells of the period when Huang left Hong Kong and returned to the Dongjiang liberated district after the new China was established. His works created during this period show that he embraced the revolutionary spirit and conveyed expressions of joy, aspirations and patriotic passion.
The fifth section is entitled "An Enduring Spirit: The Cultural Revolution Years". In 1966, the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution interrupted the creation, exhibition, education and publishing of art. Huang was interrogated and sent to Guangdong for ideological re-education through labour, which prevented him from producing work for five years. During these difficult times, Huang found refuge by immersing himself in the prose and poetry of the Southern Song poets Lu You and Xin Qiji, as he greatly sympathised with their concerns for the fate of their country and its people. Huang then wrote a series of poems lamenting the loss of the prime years of his life and the opportunity to realise his aspirations during that turbulent period, and he transformed his inner poetry into woodblock prints.
The final section is called "The Lasting Voice: The Late Years". After the end of the Cultural Revolution, Huang became active again and participated in various art conferences, as well as the organisation of art exhibitions. At the same time, he took charge of restoring the operation of the Guangzhou branch of the China Artists Association and the Guangdong Art Academy. He also published two personal woodblock print albums, "Huang Hsin-Po's Woodcuts" and "Xinbo Block Print Album", and exhibited his work in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing. These exhibitions included some of the earliest solo art exhibitions in post-Cultural Revolution China. In February 1980, Huang created his last woodcut work, "The Rose that Came out of the Greenhouse", on the occasion of the republishing of the Yangcheng Evening News. In March that year, he died of illness at the age of 64. When he passed away, a draft of an artwork remained on his working desk as the last trace of his engraved legacy for the people.
The exhibition, featuring more than 200 block prints created between 1930 and 1980 as well as oil paintings by Huang, along with artefacts from the Human Art Club, manuscripts, poetry, articles and photographs, provides an overview of Huang's artistic journey. These valuable items form an excellent archive of print art in China before World War II and the art form's development in post-war Hong Kong. Fifty exhibits will be donated to enrich the Hong Kong Heritage Museum collection after the exhibition.
To complement the exhibition, the Hong Kong Heritage Museum has worked with the Hong Kong Open Printshop to launch "Life Impression: Response Exhibition of the Print Art of Huang Xinbo" during the exhibition period, for which students from secondary schools and tertiary institutions have been invited to produce prints in dialogue with Huang's work. The exhibition was conceived as a modern recognition of Huang's art and a continuation of his vision of social awareness and humanist concerns across time and space and against different cultural and historical backgrounds. The response exhibition will be held at the first floor of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.
The Hong Kong Heritage Museum is located at 1 Man Lam Road, Sha Tin. It is open from 10am to 6pm on Mondays and Wednesdays to Saturdays, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It will close at 5pm on Christmas Eve and Lunar New Year's Eve, and is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays) and the first two days of the Lunar New Year. Admission is $10 and a half-price concession is available to full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
For details of the exhibition, please visit the Hong Kong Heritage Museum's website at www.heritagemuseum.gov.hk/eng/exhibitions/exhibition_details.aspx?exid=175 or call 2180 8188.
Ends/Wednesday, November 2, 2011
The opening ceremony of "Imprint of the Heart: Artistic Journey of Huang Xinbo" exhibition was held today (November 2) at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. The officiating guests are (from left) the Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Ms Belinda Wong; the Expert Adviser of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Ms Jane Liu; the daughter of Huang Xinbo, Professor Huang Yuan; the Assistant Director (Heritage and Museums) of Leisure and Cultural Services, Dr Louis Ng; the master in painting, Mr Huang Yongyu; and the Chairman of the Hong Kong Open Printshop, Mr Fung Ho-yin.
The wood engraving "In Memory of Lu Xun", produced by Huang Xinbo in 1936. This exhibit is on display at the "Imprint of the Heart: Artistic Journey of Huang Xinbo" exhibition.
The woodcut "Expectation", produced by Huang Xinbo in 1943. This exhibit is on display at the "Imprint of the Heart: Artistic Journey of Huang Xinbo" exhibition.
The woodcut "After Selling His Blood", produced by Huang Xinbo in 1948. This exhibit is on display at the "Imprint of the Heart: Artistic Journey of Huang Xinbo" exhibition.
The plasterboard work "She Does Not Know What Crime She Has Committed", produced by Huang Xinbo in 1962. This exhibit is on display at the "Imprint of the Heart: Artistic Journey of Huang Xinbo" exhibition.
The woodcut "Through the Clouds and over the Waves", produced by Huang Xinbo in 1973. This exhibit is on display at the "Imprint of the Heart: Artistic Journey of Huang Xinbo" exhibition.
The lino block "Rose that Came out of the Greenhouse", produced by Huang Xinbo in 1980. This exhibit is on display at the "Imprint of the Heart: Artistic Journey of Huang Xinbo" exhibition.