Born in 1905 in Panyu, Guangdong province, Luis Chan and his family migrated to Hong Kong from Panama when he was five years old. With the exception of taking a British distance learning course, he did not receive any other professional art training. Nevertheless, it was for this reason that his entire path of artistic creation was enriched with freedom and variations, invariably surprising collectors and critics and being delightfully praised.
Before 1960, Chan was obsessed with landscape paintings from life, and always carried with painting tools him to search for subjects from nature. His landscapes always reflect his acute sensitivity of understanding the reality of life. From fishing vessels, barge boats, villages, markets, mountain ranges, greenery, to the local lanes, are all swiftly captured by his sharp eyes like a camera snapshot. In looking at his works today, Chan served as a historical tour-guide who, through landscape paintings, introduced the audience to every corner of the past, allowing the viewer to discover new things and contemplate the past simultaneously.
Though different from his contemporaries such as Liu Haishu and Lin Fengmin, who had studied in Europe, Chan's brushwork, use of colors, and composition reflect a distinctive artistic syntax, as vividly shown in Untitled, Untitled; & Untitled (Lot 1153), a series of three landscape oil paintings. And though Chan had a considerable understanding of traditional Chinese painting, epitomized by his publication of An introduction to Chinese Painting in 1954, the three oil paintings created in the mid 1950s do not follow traditional landscape paintings. The composition of the three is stable-the sea and trees at the foreground accentuate the sense of order and harmony with the clouds accumulated in the skies. The distant mountains rendered in atmospheric perspective project an image of silence and serenity. The brushstrokes are straightforward, resembling his unique watercolor style of the same period, which are relaxed yet determined, unrestrained by detailed depiction, and aim to create an overall liveliness, which exhibit the mature style of Chan's landscape paintings.
When Western modern art movement prevailed in the 1960s, Chan considered changing his painting style. He boldly gave up practicing his long- renowned landscape paintings, and began radical artistic experiments based on Cubism, Pointillism, Abstractism, Surrealism, and even Abstract Expressionism. But it was not until in his old age of 70 that his true personal style was well-developed. In the 1970s, Chan combined Eastern visual elements with that of the West and created his characteristic works-subconscious-oriented landscape with figure paintings.
In the 1980s, Chan began using splash-ink technique to create abstract paintings. Unlike Jackson Pollock's (1921-1956) action paintings which emphasized spontaneity, Chan focused on transforming the representative image of the dreamlike landscape figures into highly expressive lines, revealing a more concise display of subconscious images. Untitled & Untitled (Lot 1178) shows that the skies and the land at the background remain clearly illustrated, whereas the pigments at the foreground are ingeniously manipulated to produce a sense of dancing rhythms, which remains connected to the boundless universe of the dreamlike landscape with figure paintings.
Despite living in a modern metropolitan with both Chinese and foreigners, Chan did assimilate into the stressful and stereotypical lifestyle of a city dweller. On the contrary, he was able to observe people with a humorous and relaxed mentality. He enjoyed the happiness brought about by every party, and indulged in rearing taking care of? fancy tropical fish. When young, Chan was dubbed the "King of Watercolor". In 1952, Yee Bon, Lee Bing and Chan co-founded the Hong Kong Art Society to promote Western painting and were aptly nicknamed "The Three Musketeers". Then in 1960 he established theResearch Association for Chinese Modern Art, aiming to promote modern artistic style. In the 1970s, he befriended Bao Shao-you yet Chan remained independent from any schools of style. His style always reflected contemporary times, and in his later year he still strove for artistic innovations, endeavored to capture his very inner fantasies, and illustrated every scenario of the fancy wonderland with unrestrained, liberated technique.