Metamorphosis of the Moon No. 165

Metamorphosis of the Moon No. 165
Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper
76.5 x 62 cm. (30 1⁄8 x 24 3⁄8 in.)
Inscribed and signed, with two seals of the artist
Dated 2013
Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong.
Private collection, Hong Kong.
Hong Kong, Hanart TZ Gallery, Liu Guo Song, 2013.
Further details
The young Liu Kuo-sung arrived in Hong Kong in 1971 to teach at the Fine Arts Department and the Department of Extramural Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; he then became Chairman of the Fine Arts Department a year later. During his two-decade-long tenure at the University, Liu strove to reinvigorate arts education and introduced the first Modern Chinese Ink Painting curriculum, inviting students to paint beyond using their paintbrushes. Under his leadership and radical teaching methods, he transformed the department into a creative space that encouraged innovative techniques and materials in art-making. Liu co-founded the Hong Kong Modern Ink Painting Society with his students in 1977 to foster artistic exchanges.

During his time in Hong Kong, Liu Kuo-sung became an influential figure in the art world in Asia, enjoying considerable academic and commercial success. His works were exhibited widely in Hong Kong, China and abroad. His long partnerships with leading art dealers such as Hugh Moss and Johnson Chang expanded his collectors’ circle significantly. Liu also produced some of his most memorable works in Hong Kong, such as Scenery of Hong Kong, a long handscroll commissioned by Dr K. S. Lo, founder of Vitasoy, dated 1987.

Painted in Hong Kong: A Nurturing City For Chinese Artists since the 20th Century

It is hard to imagine that Hong Kong had a population of just over 6000 in 1841. The city grew tremendously in the next century under a crisscross of influences to become a modern, leading international financial centre. Compared to the political upheavals in Mainland China at the end of the Qing Dynasty, Hong Kong offered relative stability. Many entrepreneurs and business giants were incentivised to move southwards, boosting the city’s rapid economic development. Against its unique colonial backdrop, Hong Kong provided its people with new capital, opportunities, and access to Western culture novel to the locals.

Located along the South China Coast, the people of Hong Kong were closely associated with Lingnan culture that originated from the Guangdong province. By the 1920s in Guangzhou, the Lingnan school of painting was divided into two opposing parties. They held different philosophies and interpretations of what the school represented. Upon moving to Hong Kong, artists from both parties subsided their debates. With an emphasis on art production, these artists displayed a surge of creativity and took the Lingnan art tradition to the next level. The artists presented here, including Li Yanshan, Deng Fen, Zhang Xiangning and Ye Gongchuo, arrived in the 1930s during the war and enriched the ink art culture in Hong Kong through their traditional literati elegance. In addition to painting, Ye Gongchuo actively promoted the importance of local culture and national spirit to the general public. Zhao Shao’ang, Yang Shanshen, Ding Yanyong, Lui Shou Kwan and Irene Chou came to Hong Kong in the late 1940s; their varied techniques and presentations further augmented the diversity of ink paintings in Hong Kong. Zhao Shao’ang and Yang Shanshen became leading figures in the Lingnan School; Ding Yanyong, Lui Shou Kwan and Irene Chou, influenced by Western art practices, reflected contemporary artistic debates and concerns in their works. Lui Shou Kwan was at the forefront of the Hong Kong New Ink Movement. Joined by his students Irene Chou and Wucius Wong, they pushed boundaries and were ahead of their contemporaries in China on the creative front for a long time.

Many artists came through Hong Kong from China in the mid-20th century and left their footprints. Huang Binhong maintained strong links with his friends and collectors in Hong Kong and visited the city twice. From the 1920s to the 1950s, he produced many fine works for these collectors. Other artists such as Zhang Daqian, Feng Zikai, Ye Qianyu and Huang Yongyu took up residence in Hong Kong temporarily. They came to the city searching for refuge, work opportunities, and above all, hope.

Having been established as a trading port, Hong Kong naturally became the closest hub for Mainland Chinese artists to host exhibitions and launch their commercial careers. Qi Gong, Wu Guanzhong, Guan Liang and many artists benefitted from hosting exhibitions in Hong Kong between the 1970s to the 1990s. These were vehicles to promote the artists’ careers before the art market in Mainland Chinese emerged, with opportunities created for their art to be acquired, appreciated and recognized by collectors and art connoisseurs.

Another artist who came to Hong Kong almost half a century ago at the age of 77 was Lin Fengmian. Although Lin did not appreciate Hong Kong as a claustrophobic, noisy, overtly commercial place, he nonetheless came to terms with it. The city offered him a calm environment to paint and a group of collectors and followers who revered his art; in reciprocity, he became the most iconic and representative artist associated with Hong Kong in the 20th century.

When Qi Gong passed away in 2005, the directorship at the Xiling Seal Art Society was not filled for another six years until Rao Zongyi took the helm in 2011. Rao dedicated his life to researching and educating Chinese culture and paintings, and there is no better way to open this section than his calligraphy “Pride of Hong Kong”. While we have included many artists and their works in this section, it is impossible to fully manifest the unique role played by Hong Kong in shaping the development of Chinese paintings in the 20th century in just over a few pages. We hope that this presentation will stimulate and encourage the creativity of the younger generations of artists to foster an ever-changing Hong Kong art scene.

Brought to you by

Carmen Shek Cerne (石嘉雯)
Carmen Shek Cerne (石嘉雯) Vice President, Head of Department, Chinese Paintings

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming Liu Kuo-sung Catalogue Raisonne. (Information provided by The Liu Kuo-sung Foundation)

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