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Ink paintings by master Liu Guosong go on show

The exhibition, "Liu Guosong - A Universe of His Own", will run from tomorrow (February 20) to May 2 at the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

A highlight of the 2004 Hong Kong Arts Festival, the exhibition features 65 masterpieces by Liu Guosong. The exhibition will give gallery-goers an insight into the profound impact Liu has had on the direction of Chinese painting in the 20th century.

Acclaimed as a pioneer of modern Chinese ink painting, Liu established a new direction in Chinese art through his innovative ideas and techniques. Once an advocate of Westernisation, Liu has become a model for a return to tradition. His theory and practice of art have influenced painters in Taiwan, Mainland China and Hong Kong.

Liu was born in 1932 in Anhui province. He moved to Taiwan in 1949. He began studying traditional Chinese painting when he was 14, and started learning Western painting at the age of 20. Deeply affected by Abstract Expressionism, Liu founded the Wuyue huahui (Fifth Moon Group) with some fellow students after graduating from the Taiwan Normal University in 1956. His new movement combined Chinese traditional art with modern Western techniques and images. His experiments with abstract art began around 1958.

Liu returned to Chinese ink painting in the 1960s, but his work had a modern twist. This is considered Liu's greatest contribution to contemporary Chinese art. He later used the term "modern ink painting" to describe the genre, which has had a significant impact at home and abroad.

Liu has put much effort into the modernisation of Chinese ink painting. Using experimentation, he invented "Guosong" paper (paper with shaggy cotton fibres) and a technique of plucking the fibres to give a mottled effect simulating the "flying white" brushstrokes in calligraphy. Liu also established the "Society of Chinese Ink Painting" to advocate the modernisation of traditional Chinese painting.

Since 1965, Liu has held many solo exhibitions and participated in numerous international group exhibitions. He has also won numerous international awards and honours. His works are collected by art galleries and museums all over the world. During his visit to the United States in 1966, he was influenced by Pop Art, Opart and Hardedge.

The US moon landing in 1969 also had a profound impact on the artist, inspiring him to create a spectacular series of cosmic landscapes. He painted over 300 "spacescapes" in just four years.

Liu became a lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1971. Since then, he has dedicated himself to painting and teaching as well as nurturing the development of the contemporary local ink art scene.

Liu has made invaluable contributions to the ink painting movement in Hong Kong. He not only established the world's first course in modern Chinese ink painting, but also set up the Modern Chinese Ink Painting Programme at the Chinese University's Department of Extra-mural Studies, attracting many young Hong Kong artists. In 1976, Liu's students formed the Hong Kong Modern Chinese Ink Painting Association, which has produced a number of important artists.

Following China's implementation of the open-door policy in the early 1980s, Liu's exhibits and new art philosophy were introduced to the Mainland. His philosophy continues to exert a huge influence on trends in experimental ink art today.

Liu sets great store in experimenting with and revolutionising the materials, skills and artistic form used. The techniques he employs, such as water-rubbing, paper-rubbing, plaque-rubbing, ink-soaking, ink-staining, mist-spraying, print-transferring, paper-fibring, haloing, collaging and mixing additives with ink solutions have all grown out of traditional ink painting. The many variations of almost all these techniques, coupled with the combination of one technique with another, have enabled Liu to create some remarkable new effects.

Liu believes that constant experimentation with materials and techniques is crucial, as he puts it, "to being different before being good".

As well as paintings owned by the museum and those from Liu's private collection, some of the exhibits on display are on loan from private collectors. They include Professor Li Chu-tsing of the University of Kansas; Take a Step Back Collection of Hong Kong; Shuisongshi Shanfang of the United Kingdom; Mr Roy Hsu, Mr Tam Chung-sam, Mr Chen Lien-chun, Mr Peter Tsai, Mr Lu Hsueh-tu and Cheng Huai House Collection of Taiwan.

To coincide with the exhibition, a fully illustrated catalogue is available at the museum bookshop. It contains articles written by Professor Li Chu-tsing; the professor of the Art Department, South China Normal University, Pi Daojian; and the Professor of the Department of Art History, College of Arts, Sichuan University, Lin Mu. It also contains Liu Guosong's discourse on painting.

The Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It is open from 10am to 6pm daily and is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10, with a half-price concession for full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

For more information on the exhibition, visit the Museum of Art's website at .

For enquiries, call 2721 0116.

Ends/Thursday, February 19, 2004
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