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Works of Lingnan School master Ho Chat-yuen open to public

More than 60 works which provide a comprehensive picture of the artistic accomplishments of the great master of the Lingnan School, Ho Chat-yuen, will be on display at the Hong Kong Museum of Art from tomorrow (December 28) to March 9, 2008.

Entitled "An Inheritance of Virtuosity: Donated Chinese Paintings of Ho Chat-yuen", the exhibition features Ho's artistic career over half a century. The works on display range from Ho's early flower-and-bird paintings, which are close to the style of Gao Qifeng, to his landscape paintings created with a wide variety of traditional techniques coupled with Western painting principles and real landscapes themes.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition today (December 27), the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Thomas Chow, said the Museum of Art was honoured to have received a major donation from Ho's family and the Hong Kong Fine Arts Association. To celebrate this generous gift and to enhance the audience's appreciation of Ho's achievement, the museum organised this retrospective exhibition featuring 60 representative works selected from the donation along with selected pieces from the museum's collection.

"A native of Guangdong, studying in Guangzhou and working and living mainly in Hong Kong, Mr Ho's life and art exemplify an intricate and cultural bondage between Guangdong and Hong Kong. The Museum of Art has long steered itself towards collecting and promoting the art of both the province and the city.

"In this respect, we are grateful to public-spirited artists, collectors and other groups in the community for their support in expanding the museum's collection which has made systematic exhibitions of Guangdong art possible to showcase the rich, vibrant and creative art of south China," Mr Chow said.

Among the second-generation artists of the Lingnan School, Ho Chat-yuen (1899-1970) was recognised as one of the most outstanding figures. Learning painting from Gao Qifeng since he was 19, Ho later became one of the Seven Disciples of Tianfeng. When his teacher died prematurely in Shanghai in 1933, Ho was first preoccupied with the funeral and later in the three decades that followed, organised with his fellow students from the "Tianfeng Lou" (Heavenly Wind Studio) a number of exhibitions in honour of his late teacher. He was untiring in his efforts to bring the Lingnan School of Painting to an ever wider audience. In practising the art, Ho kept very much alive the Lingnan spirit of "synthesising the East with the West and blending the old with the new". Instead of contenting himself with just sketching from life, he went further, tapping traditional painting, calligraphy and poetry to enliven the essence of the great Chinese heritage in a self-conceived eclectic style.

Ho's innovative endeavours are best exemplified in running the "Monmouth Studio", a traditional rendering of new subjects with new techniques like Western perspective. Similarly, Western perspectives and optics are evidently at work in "Crowing Crane over a Clear Pond" in which the reflection of the bird is faintly visible on the water surface. To hone his skills in realistic depiction, Ho made many sketches from life, among which are "A Sketch of Hok Tsui" and "Flame of the Forest and Cicada". Pursuing realism and new techniques apart, Ho was adamant when it came to his aspirations for art and life. When put into words, his credo was "neither to stand out with eccentricity nor to garner popularity by compromise". When translated into art, his unwavering belief in a pragmatic approach towards both the traditional and the modern crystallised into an inviting charm in his paintings.

Following in the footsteps of his late teacher, Ho devoted himself to imparting his secrets to the younger generation. Besides substituting for Gao Qifeng at Lingnan University, he taught at the Foshan Municipal College of Fine Arts and the Guangzhou Municipal College of Fine Arts. Arriving in Hong Kong in 1936, he took up teaching at the Hong Kong Vernacular Normal School which was merged into the newly set up Northcote Training College in 1939. When the Grantham Training College was founded in 1951, he served as teacher at both institutions until retiring in 1959. The many students who benefited from his tutelage represented just a facet of his contribution to local art education. After his retirement, he continued to pass on his skills and knowledge at his Monmouth Studio where talks were frequently held to promote Chinese art.

Ho also left his mark in painting societies and painting exhibitions in which he was actively involved since a young age. As early as 1926, he collaborated with his fellow students from the Aesthetic Institute and founded the Meixue She (Society of Aesthetics). In 1934, he joined Zhou Yifeng, Zhao Shao'ang, Huang Shaoqiang, Ye Shaobing and Rong Shushi in forming the Six-Person Painting Society, which was followed by the founding of the Suihan She in Hong Kong in 1939. In 1956 he established the Bingshen Club with Li Fenggong, Zhao Shao'ang, Ye Shaobing, Lin Jiantong, Bao Shaoyou and Zhang Shaoshi. In 1968, he and his students founded the Hong Kong Fine Arts Association as an extension of Gao Qifeng's Aesthetic Institute. These efforts were upheld after his departure by his students who not only masterminded exhibitions and publications over the years but also donated works of their late teacher to museums in Guangdong and Hong Kong to perpetuate his legacy.

In support of the exhibition, a gallery talk will be held on December 29 from 2.30pm to 4.30pm by the Assistant Curator (Chinese Fine Art) Mr Tang Man-leung. The talk will be in Cantonese. Admission fee to the museum is required and 40 seats are available on a first-come-first-served basis. In addition, a fully illustrated catalogue will be published and available at the Gift Shop of the Museum of Art.

The Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm from Sunday to Wednesday and Fridays, and from 10am to 8pm on Saturdays. On Chinese New Year's Eve, the museum will close at 5pm. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays) and the first two days of Chinese 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 enquiries, call 2721 0116 or visit the Museum of Art's website at .

Ends/Thursday, December 27, 2007
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