Visitors to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum can appreciate works created by Gao Qifeng, one of the founders of the Lingnan school of painting, and his disciples in an exhibition entitled "The Heavenly Breeze: Selected Works of Gao Qifeng and His Disciples", running from today (April 18) to August 26, 2013.
The exhibition showcases about 30 works selected from the collections of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and the Hong Kong Museum of Art, as well as the works provided by the family of Chao Shao-an, a disciple of Gao. Featuring Gao and the "Tianfeng Seven", the most outstanding seven disciples of Gao, the exhibition will give visitors a glimpse of the early development of the Lingnan school and the achievements made by Gao and his disciples.
Gao Qifeng had an early start with painting under the tutorship of his elder brother Gao Jianfu. In 1907, the two brothers travelled to Japan to further their study of painting. Gao Qifeng's sojourn in Japan brought him into contact with Western realist paintings and techniques like perspective drawing. The encounter proved to be eye-opening and influential, particularly in shaping his aesthetic principle of "mingling the East and the West, the old and the new". He channelled his creativity through this approach in a way to energise and revolutionise the Lingnan art scene.
Birds, animals, flowers and landscapes are the recurring themes of Gao's works, while colour choice and ink rendering showcase the strengths of the artist's skills. His artistic interpretation remains true to realism and is marked by robust and nimble brushstrokes, which in his later works become increasingly powerful. Stricken with lung problems at a young age, Gao retreated to Ersha Island, Guangzhou, in 1929. He built a new residence there named the Tianfeng (Heavenly Breeze) Studio and continued to paint and discuss art with his disciples. In 1933 he was appointed by the national government as a representative for the Chinese Art Exhibition in Berlin, Germany. He was hit by the chronic illness again when attending the preparation meeting in Shanghai and passed away on November 2, 1933.
Gao put as much effort as possible into promoting art and thus attracted a number of followers despite his short 45-year life. He taught painting at the Tianfeng Studio, where his most outstanding disciples including Chao Shao-an and six other artists emerged. They became known as the Tianfeng Seven, and their close relationship frequently saw them organise exhibitions and work on paintings together, and they also set up art societies and taught painting to perpetuate their art. There is no denying their influence in developing and promoting the Lingnan school of painting.
The Tianfeng Seven are Zhou Yifeng (1890-1982), Zhang Kunyi (1895-1967), Ye Shaobing (1896-1968), He Qiyuan (1899-1970), Huang Shaoqiang (1901-1942), Rong Shushi (1903-1996) and Chao Shao-an (1905-1998).
Each of the seven disciples excelled in different ways. While Zhou Yifeng was skilled in traditional painting, He Qiyuan was adept at blending the styles of the East and the West. Having a close relationship with Gao, Zhang Kunyi mastered the depiction of flowers and birds in a way to stay truthful to the spirit of Gao's style. Huang Shaoqiang was the best portrait painter and was greatly concerned about the suffering of ordinary people. His paintings are always marked by a strong sense of compassion. Ye Shaobing's strength lay in artistic theory. In comparison with the others, Rong Shushi kept a low profile throughout his life. At the age of 16, Chao Shao-an attended Gao's art studio and it marked the turning point in Chao's artistic path and laid the foundation of his future achievement.
For details of the exhibition, please visit the webpage of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum at www.heritagemuseum.gov.hk/eng/exhibitions/exhibition_details.aspx?exid=187 or call 2180 8188.
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 is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). 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.
Ends/Wednesday, April 18, 2012
"White Horse", created by Gao Qifeng before 1931. Gao used the quiet and relaxed white horse to convey an attitude of ease.
"Monkeys and Snowy Pine", created by Gao Qifeng in 1916. The painting conveys a sense of desolation in a snowy land via the motif of monkeys hanging on a single branch. It reveals a strong influence of Japanese painting on the theme and the composition as well as the atmosphere, and is a good example of the closeness of the Lingnan school to Japanese aesthetics.
"Kingfisher at the Riverbank", created by Zhou Yifeng, Ye Shaobing, He Qiyuan, Huang Shaoqiang, Chao Shao-an and Rong Shushi in 1934. In the year after Gao Qifeng passed away, the "Tianfeng Seven", excluding Zhang Kunyi, founded the "Six-People Painting Society" in Guangzhou. This painting was the result of collaboration by them. The calligraphy Chao added to the painting in his old age reflects his fond memories of the past.
"Mandarin Ducks and Plum Blossoms", created by Zhou Yifeng and Zhang Kunyi in 1929. Gao Qifeng's disciples were very close. This painting was created in celebration of Ye Shaobing's marriage. Mandarin ducks, often seen in a pair, are in Chinese tradition a symbol of a happy union.
"Landscape in Guilin", created by Chao Shao-an in 1945. When he retreated to the southwest during wartime, Chao travelled past Guilin and was stunned by the magnificent landscape. The scenery of Guilin became a lasting inspiration and the subject was repeated in many of his later works after the war.