Ruins (Lot 573) is formerly property of the Portuguese Consul in Hong Kong who has held the office from 1953 to 1959. The painting was presented to the Portuguese Consul in 1957 directly by the artist as part of his donation of 12 watercolours depicting historic moments to commemorate the Portuguese National Day and to thank the Macau Government for having maintained friendly and cordial relations between the Chinese and the Portuguese.
Lui Shou-Kwan started his painting career when he moved to Hong Kong to work as an inspector at the Yaumati Ferry Company in 1949. Trained in the monochrome ink painting of the Literati painters and the highly refined delicacy of the Court style, Lui nevertheless believed that the artist has to free himself from the rigidity of classical tradition that had become insipid and stereotyped. His early works were greatly influenced by tradition; he considered it “naturalistic and romantic”. In the early 1950s, however, Lui realised that for a complete breakthrough into a new realm of Chinese painting he had to learn from the West where modernization first started. In the mid-1950s he was studying Impressionism and ventured into the exploration of the works by Matisse, Picasso, Klee, Kandinsky, John Piper, Graham Sutherland and the Surrealists who showed him different aspects of reality, but it was J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) who led Lui into the world of modern art. Intrigued by Turner’s use of flickering light, his rhythmic expression of nature in its most dynamic and dramatic moments, Lui made a copy of Turner’s famous Snow Storm while testing the expressive quality of traditional Chinese media in his painting Storm, created in 1956. This marked a shift into a new direction of Lui’s painting . In Ruins, Lui applied a new form, new colour and new space which were unknown to him before. His techniques remained traditional, but his brushwork became free. Heavy washes were used again and again, draining everything in soft grey shimmer. The effect achieved in Ruins is that of a quiet lyricism in a contemplative mood, the visual poetry of light and atmosphere.