My Passion: Chinese ink painting

Carmen Shek Cerne, specialist in Chinese contemporary art at Christie’s in Hong Kong, explains what attracts her to a medium that ‘looks at the present but equally looks to the past’

‘Every object has a story,’ says Chinese Contemporary Ink specialist Carmen Shek Cerne, and Chinese painting is no exception.

‘That’s what attracted me to art in the first place: getting to discover the stories behind the works,’ the specialist continues. ‘How they are situated in historical context, when they were painted, who owned them, and even the artist’s state of mind when they were created.’

On 27 and 28 November, key examples of Chinese Classical, Modern and Contemporary ink paintings will be offered in three sales at Christie’s in Hong Kong, as part of Hong Kong Week.

Xu Lei (B. 1963), Horse • Free Run. 88 x 148 cm (34⅝ x 58¼ in). Estimate: HK$2,400,000-3,200,000. This lot is offered in Chinese Contemporary Ink on 27 November 2017 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

‘Chinese contemporary ink is fascinating because it looks at the present but equally it looks to the past,’ Shek Cerne explains. ‘Chinese ink painting has over two thousand years of history. And it’s a history that continues to influence the contemporary painters who use ink as a creative medium.

‘For example, when we look at Li Huayi’s landscape paintings we see influences from Northern Song landscape works. We also see the influence of the 20th century master Zhang Daqian and his splashed ink technique, which Li Huayi uses to prepare his paper before outlining his landscapes.’

The flower is among the most popular subjects in Chinese painting — the lotus is particularly beloved. ‘When we look at these motifs,’ says Shek Cerne, ‘we can see how its representation in art changed over the course of hundreds of years, from Ming dynasty painter Chen Hongshou to Hong Kong artist Lui Shou-Kwan, who uses an abstraction of the lotus form in his signatures and paintings.’

These lotus paintings show how ‘continuity and innovation have been key to the evolution of the ink tradition over the course of centuries.’

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