(CHUI TUNG PAK, Chinese, 1900-1989)
Amah Rock, Mong Fu Hill, Shatin
signed in Chinese (lower left); signed 'T.P. Chiu' in Pinyin; dated '1955' (lower right)
oil on canvas
59.6 x 62.8 cm. (23 1/2 x 24 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1955
油彩 畫布 1955年作 簽名：徐東白 T.P. Chui
From the Collection of Huaiyang Mengbi Zhai established by Hong Kong Collector Mr Kong Shiu Yim
During the Japanese Invasion of China, a period of turbulence in the 1930s, Hong Kong, as a British Colony next to Guangdong Province, provided a place of refuge for the Chinese citizens, including many young artists, to earn a living. Tracing back to this period of history, artists like Li Teifu, Feng Gangbai, Xu Dongbai, Ding Yanyong, Yee Bon, Wu Buyun, Gao Jianfu, Huang Xinbo, Li Bing and Chen Hong have stayed in Hong Kong for different duration and have held an joint-painting exhibition. These artists, together with the local painters such as Luis Chan and Zhou Gong-li, have become an active and new emerging force in the painting circle.
In the year of 1900, Xu Dongbai was born in Dong Guan in Guangdong Province. He graduated from Guo Li Guang Dong Shi Fan Xue Xiao (a Guangdong college) in 1920 and learned basic painting techniques and watercolor painting from Chen Qiushan who has once stayed in Japan. In 1922, he learned oil painting and has mastered the skills in realistic painting under the instruction of Feng Gangbai, a Chinese artist who was one of the first generation students who has studied in the US. Xu has set up a studio in Hong Kong for teaching and oil painting. He also participated a lot in the Chi She Mei Shu Yan Jiu Hui (an association for studying art). Xu settled down in Guangzhou in 1956 in response to the construction of the return to the motherland where he kept on painting as well as working on art education.
The two auctioned oil paintings by Xu Dongbai were completed in 1953 and 1955 respectively during the period when Xu stayed in Hong Kong. These works were belonged to the Huai Yang Meng Bi Zhai, a collection kept by a Hong Kong collector Kong Shiu Yim for more than 50 years in his family. These works show us the painting journey of this senior Chinese artist. Kong was born in Guangdong Province and is passionate about art. He did business in Hong Kong and Southern China in his earlier years. Apart from Chinese books and paintings, his collections also include works of Qi Baishi, Guan Liang, Cheng Shifa, etc. Besides, he supported artists along the Guangdong coast such as Yee Bon and Xu Dongbai and has made good friends with them. In the 1950s, Xu Dongbai's studio in Hong Kong was temporary located at one of the Kong's properties in Gilman Street. This shows the profound friendship between the two of them.
The still-life painting Vased Lily with Vincent van Gogh (Lot 1198) was drawn in 1953, which specifically shows Xu's solid techniques of realism. The blooming white lilies and the ones in bud are placed over a dark background. The beauty of the extending lines of the lilies in different directions is displayed through the fine framework designed by the painter, which makes the flowers graceful and outstanding. Xu painted the album of Vincent van Gogh beside the lilies on purpose. Van Gogh is covering his injured ears with a piece of cloth, which is in contrast to the dark color of the background. It seems to express respect to this talented and peerless artist who has struggled through the hard time in his life. Amah Rock, Mong Fu Hill, Shatin (Lot 1199) was painted by Xu on the day before he left Hong Kong for Guangzhou, which shows the views of Shatin in the 1950s. Xu zooms the close shot of the riverside out to the village at countryside and further extends the view to the Mong Fu Hill which features the Amah Rock in the painting. ?
Waiting for him alone
Where the river flows by,
She turns into a stone
Gazing with longing eyes.
Battered by wind and rain day to day,
the stone speaks when her husband returns.
(translated by crisscrossers in Oct 2008)
The Amah Rock is situated in the south-western part of Shatin and is as tall as the height of 6-7 people. From a distance, it looks like a woman with her child in her arms. But from another point of view, it seems that the woman is carrying the child on her back, and this explains the other name of this rock "Bei Zi Shi". The hill was named Mong Fu Hill because of this particular rock which also symbolizes Shatin. According to the History of Hong Kong Fine Arts written by Zhu Qi, "Xu Dongbai insists on doing sketching of real characters and scenery. Besides, in order to capture the similar light source, Xu always paints at the same time at the same place, despite the time a piece of work takes." This shows how serious Xu is in treating light and color. He captures the irregular reflections on the floating water very precisely. Streams, woods, forests and mountains appear in different colors of green under the sunshine such as bluish green, blackish green, pale green and yellowish green. A sense of life in nature is displayed with the ducklings in the river and also the hills and streams in green. In the years of 1960-1970s, the Hong Kong Government aimed at developing Shatin into a residential and industrial new town. The Amah Rock, Mong Fu Hill, Shatin captures the tranquil moment of Shatin in the 1950s which has become a collective memory of many Hong Kong citizens nowadays.