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Exhibition details

Opening / Event Date:
21 April, 2018
10:30 am - 5:30 pm
Closing / End Date:
31 August, 2018
Event Category:
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Opening on Saturday, 21 April 2018 10:30am-5:30pm

Address: 2305 Hing Wai Centre, 7 Tin Wan Praya Road, Aberdeen, Hong Kong

Other visiting times by appointment only

This exhibition pays tribute to four internationally renowned Chinese artists who passed away in recent years: Chu Ko, Cui Zifan, Kong Baiji, and Li Huasheng. Rooted in ink tradition, their unique styles impacted the history of Contemporary Chinese Art. They include Chu Ko’s poetic abstract mountains identifiable by the recurring image of unwinding knots; Cui Zifan’s modern flower and bird paintings inspired by Qi Baishi (the most influential ink painters in the history of Contemporary Chinese art); Kong Baiji’s Dunghuang Buddhist images and Li Huasheng’s early works of new literati landscapes.

Chu Ko (1931 Hunan-2011 Taiwan), a central figure in the modern art movement for the past forty years, is known for his image of the unwinding knot. His work is featured on the cover of Michael Sullivan’s definitive monograph Arts and Artists of Twentieth-Century China (by University of California Press, 1996),

in which Sullivan describes Chu as “one of the Taiwanese artists who have given new meaning to the term wenrenhua [literati painting].” While Chu utilizes traditional iconography and a traditional format and style of Chinese ink painting, his approach concertedly strives to revitalize traditional norms.

In 1949, he moved to Taiwan and enlisted in the military, remaining an active soldier for seventeen years. During that time, he enrolled in night courses at a local art college, expanding on his classical education in literature, painting and calligraphy. In 1968, Chu joined the Antiquities Department at the National Palace Museum and became an expert in the field of ancient bronze vessels. It was during the 1970s, with the encouragement of friends and family, that Chu began to exhibit his works. In 1984, following a miraculous recovery from nasopharyngeal cancer, Chu devoted himself fully to his painting. In 1988 and 1992, Chu was selected as one of the two Chinese artists commissioned to represent the Republic of China at the Seoul and Barcelona Olympics, respectively.

In the past 50 years Chu Ko has participated in over sixty solo and group exhibitions across the world. Following a retrospective exhibition at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in 1991, Alisan Fine Arts held its first solo exhibition for Chu in 1992, followed by two more solo exhibitions, one at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. In 2014, three years after Chu’s death, the Cultural Department of Taiwan Government organized the exhibition Walking Through his Paintings and Poems exhibit to commemorate this Taiwan icon.

His works have been collected by several important public institutions including the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul; the Olympic Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the JP Morgan Chase Art Collection.

Cui Zifan (1915-2011, Shandong) is a well-known Chinese ink painter recognized for his spontaneous style and versatility, reminiscent of Qi Baishi (the most influential ink painter in the history of Contemporary Chinese art).

Lars Berglund, former curator at the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm first introduced the director of Alisan Fine Arts to Cui in 1991 while the artist had a solo exhibition in Macau. Alisan Fine Arts then held a solo exhibition for Cui in 1992, for which Prof Berglund wrote an essay in the accompanying catalogue stating that Cui “has succeeded so well in cultivating his clumsiness that his style of painting has been called refined clumsiness (hou zhuo).”

From an early age Cui developed an interest in painting but never had the opportunity to formally study art. Although his family lacked the means to buy brushes, paper, and other art supplies, Cui was not deterred. He would practice his art and calligraphy on a table, substituting ink with limewash. His paintings have a natural and deliberate naïveté that make the compositions look deceptively simplistic, achieving the effect of “disciplined abandonment.”

In adulthood, Cui struggled to find time to paint due to his many public posts. It was not until 1951, under the influence of his friend and advisor Qi Baishi, that Cui carved out the time to dedicate to his craft. From 1956, Cui held several official posts, first as Secretary-General of the Beijing Academy of Chinese Painting, then as its Vice-President. He was also a council member of the Beijing Branch of the Union of Chinese Artists and Honorary President of the Research Association of Bird and Flower Painting in Beijing. In 1979 he was a consultant to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture. In 1994 the Cui Zifan Museum was established in Qingdao. His works have been exhibited in numerous countries and collected by the National Art Museum of China, Beijing; Fine Art Museum of Research Institute of Traditional Chinese Painting, Beijing; Beijing Art Academy, Beijing; Shandong Museum, Jinan; Tianjin Art Museum, Tianjin; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and other national museums in America, Canada and Sweden.

Kong Baiji (1932-2018, Shanghai) is recognized worldwide for his Dunhuang paintings of graceful bodhisattvas. In 2009 the US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Shanghai’s mayor Han Zheng in front of Kong Baiji’s large mural at the Xijiao State Guest House, China’s equivalent of Camp David, in Shanghai.

Kong was a gifted self-taught painter. In 1956 he began teaching Fine Arts at the Shanghai Drama Academy and became head of the department in 1976. His first solo exhibition was held in Shanghai in 1964, and by 1979 he was considered an esteemed painter, likened to Zhu Qizhan, Yan Wenliang and Jui Guoliang. From 1979 to 1983 he made frequent visits to the Buddhist caves at Dunhuang in Gansu, and the Yongle Palace Murals in Shanxi, drawing inspiration from China’s rich heritage. Subsequently, his series of bodhisattvas was exhibited in Japan and the United States. In 1982, he took part in the joint exhibition Chinese Modern Paintings which travelled to various museums in the United States. In 1986, he settled in the United States and further experimented with incorporating elements of Western art into his creative practices. Harvard University organized one of his first solo exhibitions two years after his arrival. He passed away this year in Shanghai at the age of 86.

Alisan Fine Arts was the first gallery in Hong Kong to exhibit Kong’s works in a solo show in 2006. The year before, the Shanghai Art Museum held a solo exhibition of his works. He has staged solo exhibitions at the Fukuoka Art Museum in Kyushu, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and the National Art Museum of China in Beijing. His paintings have been collected by Harvard University, Boston; First National Bank of Chicago; The Art Institute of Chicago; Lincoln Center, New York, United States; Kimpusen-ji temple, Nara; Soyanzi Art Museum, Tokyo; T Fukuoka Art Museum; Peace Memorial Museum; Hokkaido Art Museum, Japan; National Art Museum of China, Beijing; Shanghai Art Museum; Zhejiang Art Museum, Hangzhou, China. Kong’s paintings were also on display in a special exhibit in the China Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

Li Huasheng (1944-2018, Sichuan) A leading figure of the New Literati school, Li Huasheng made major efforts to revive the literati art form. In 1993, the University of Washington published Contradictions, a monograph on Li Huasheng, highlighting the life of the artist during Maoist China.

Li used a more expressionistic ink painting style in the 1980’s and eventually turned to full abstraction in his later years. Li was part of the first generation of artists who grew up in the People’s Republic of China. During the Cultural Revolution he spent his artistic career painting propaganda works but at night he studied ink painting manuals to satisfy his interest in classical Chinese ink painting. His expressionist ink painting style was a result of his mentorship under contemporary artist Chen Zizhuang (1913-1976), a personal bodyguard and cultural adviser to Sichuan’s last warlord governor. In the 1990’s Li spent some time in Tibet. Inspired by the daily prayers of the Tibetan monks, Li decided to abandon landscape painting and experiment with abstraction, ultimately leading to his meditative minimalistic ink paintings.

During his life time, Li held numerous solo exhibitions around the world including at the University Art Museums of Harvard and Yale, Chinese Culture Centre Sans Francisco, to name a few. In 1981, his paintings were featured in a national group exhibition at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing. He first came to international attention after his paintings were selected as part of the first major international travelling exhibitions of contemporary Chinese paintings Contemporary Chinese Painting: An Exhibition from the Peoples Republic of China in 1983-86. This travelled to eight museums in United States, starting at the Asia Society New York and ending at University of Minnesota. And again in 1995, his works were included in another major travelling exhibition Tradition and Innovation that went to the British Museum, Museum of East Asia in Germany, Singapore Art Museum, National Art Museum of China in Beijing, and Hong Kong Museum of Art. Li passed away in Sichuan at the age of 74.

Alisan Fine Arts first began representing Li in 1992 and held two solo exhibitions for the artist, including a 1998 travelling exhibition for the artist, which visited the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. Li Huasheng’s works can be found in the permanent collections of the National Art Museum of China, Beijing; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the British Museum, London; the Chicago Art Institute, Chicago; M+ Museum, Hong Kong; the Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai; the Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou; the He Xiangning Art Museum-OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shenzhen; and the permanent art collections of Harvard University, Yale University, University of Washington and University of Michigan. His works were recently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Guangdong Museum of Art.


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