Oil painting series | 2016 – 2017
J: How did you begin your life in art?
H: Drawing has been my interest but I probably inherited my family’s artistic genes. My big fraternal uncle Hau Yu-ping, a member of the Lingnan School of Painting during its formative years, joined the group’s leading pioneer Gao Jianfu to study painting in Japan. As for myself, I first studied arts and crafts at the South China University of Arts in Guangzhou and later graduated from a professional course at the Guangzhou Institute of Education.
Flashback thirty-odd years ago, I recall I left my editorial job at an arts magazine under the Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, for a brand-new life in Hong Kong with my wife and son. I took up a new position in interior and landscape design at the Conic Group (now China Aerospace International Holdings Limited), wherein one of my brainchildren was the architectural drawings for the Good Wish Garden at Wong Tai Sin Temple. Later, I quitted to teach arts full-time.
J: Can you share with us your insights into and experience of arts education? Why do you focus on sketching?
H: My teaching used to cover a wide variety of disciplines in painting but has since narrowed down to sketching. I usually give demonstrations along with real objects and sample drawings in classes, to guide my students in producing their own works. This way, they would develop observation skills while grasping sketching techniques . What I convey to them is that painting is not about imitation, but expressing one’s feelings through mastery of forms, essence and colour. There is no right or wrong in the this practice.
Sketching lays the cornerstone for painting, one has to master sketching before they can attempt painting. Of the many different schools of sketching, the Russian approach is the most formal and the strictest . With a solid foundation, one’s expressive ability can go far.
Sketching is also an excellent way to develop professional observation skills and scientific understanding of the human anatomy, as testified by a student of mine, who got into medical school where he put his artistic acumen to wonderful use in anatomy classes! The advantages of long-term practice range from better agility to improved eye-hand and motor coordination skills that, in turn, fuel the creative process that yields twice the result with half the effort, so to speak!
J: Your favourite kind of drawing is…
H: Live portrait sketching. As an arts student I used to sneak into the Guangzhou Zoo via its rear exit during my lunch break, and spent the entire afternoon there drawing animals. Even now I would do quick sketches of different facets of people’s lives during my metro rides. In the days before the popularisation of cameras, quick sketching was the most direct and convenient way to capture and record day-to-day moments. Though it is easily relegated to obscurity in the time of smartphones, I still hope to restore and communicate the value of quick sketching to people that, instead of being treated as a sub-genre of sketching, it should be regarded an art discipline in its own right.
To facilitate exchanges between quick sketching artists, Mainland Chinese netizens started a WeChat group loosely translated “In an Instant” where works are posted for peer appreciation and review. Some of my quick sketches have won merit awards at national exhibitions and showcased in Guangzhou, Beijing and other cities.
Sketch on canvas | 2019
J: Your most memorable experiences are…
H: I was honoured to participate in the “Poverty. Full-time” exhibition, a show co-organised by photographer Tse Chi-tak, Ducky (L7-22) and Oxfarm a few years before, which shines a spotlight on working poverty among the grassroots. We interviewed the urban poor and visited an elderly couple at their tin shack in Tin Shui Wai to learn about their work in rag-picking. I did a quick portrait of the couple, the first of a painting series that centres around cleaners and aged labourers.
My work Old Courier, in particular, has garnered wide appreciation and was later exhibited at the Sun Museum. Compared to scenery drawings, artworks mirroring social problems are more “realistic” and in tune with the people. As a Chinese leader once said, “People need arts, but arts needs people more.” Arts has to be woven into the fabric of society and rooted in real life; and people or things are often the best artistic elements.
J: Can you tell us a bit more about the Lulake School?
H: Rather than defining it as a school or style, it is more accurately described as an art phenomenon that arose from a specific historical environment. It dates back to the time before the Cultural Revolution with a bunch of impoverished youngsters who sustained on nothing but a love for Russian literature and a passion for oil painting. Turned away by formal art schools, they banded together to do still life drawing by the bank of Lu Lake in the Baiyun mountain scenic district and the “Lulake School”, essentially an art group, came about as a result of this alliance. Despite being a junior high school student, I was introduced to this group of young artists and made the acquaintance of them through a senior student who was president of the school art club. We have taken separate paths since then but have always kept in touch and even published a collected volume of our paintings together.
Oil painting | 2016 | Collected by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Oil painting series | 2016 – 2017
Oil painting series | 2016 – 2017
J: How do you see your dual roles as art editor and critic?
H: I have a penchant for literature, arts and culture with a special liking for Chinese poetry. Teaching art aside, I also moonlight as a writer. Some years ago I was invited by the editor-in-chief of China Artists News to host “Hong Kong Art Gallery”, a column devoted to the local arts scene but the journal folded up later. Afterwards, I was invited to contribute articles to the fortnightly magazine, Hong Kong Art, and was engaged as a beat reporter. One of my well-received articles chronicles the history of Hong Kong as an export hub for oil paintings. I prize readability in writing.
J: What are your views on the artistic exchanges between Mainland China and Hong Kong?
H: Hong Kong shares close ties with Mainland China in artistic exchanges on the subject of realism. In fact, the newly established Hong Kong Artists Association is affiliated with the China Artists Association and regularly holds study tours and joint exhibitions. I have even paid a visit to the Shek Kong Barracks drawing sketches of the troops there, and have recently returned from a cultural tour in Huizhou for Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau artists. I look forward to more activities of this kind in the future.