Last month we visited Hong Kong, where we had a chance to enjoy a classical Chinese music concert, attended the annual Cantonese opera festival, and explored a painting exhibition that introduced us to the art of Lo Ching Yuan. Hong Kong can be translated as “the fragrant harbor”, and is a fascinating, very vibrant city that is considered to be the “New York of the East” and boasts an exceptional range of art galleries. With its own very distinct culture, the city shows clear signs of being influenced from both the East and the West, and accordingly the arts of Hong Kong have a very distinct flavor, making the city a great source of inspiration for artists and authors, past and present. As John Batten, President of the International Association of Art Critics in Hong Kong rightly observed: “the city is becoming the regional hub that the arts community has been working towards”.
Whilst we enjoyed exploring different types and aspects of arts in Hong Kong in general, the exhibition Boundless Nature, The Art of Lo Ching Yuan at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum made a particular impression on us. Born in China and now residing in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Canada, Lo Ching Yuan is a third-generation representative of the Lingnan School of Painting, which focuses on realistic observation and live drawing, and the artist is known for his vivid depictions of nature – especially animals, birds, insects, fish, and flowers. Close observation of nature is a fundamental idea of this school of art and it shows in the artist’s work, in that it strikingly captures the character and the nature of each subject. It is known that when Lo Ching Yuan was predominantly painting fish earlier in his career, he kept different types of fish in his studio to observe and capture their movement, which illustrates how committed the artist is to the fundamental principles of the Lingnan School.
The result is a magnificent collection of paintings that instantly reminded me of the likes of Albrecht Durer and Rembrandt and their incredibly lifelike animal and nature drawings. This extends not just to their quality of craftsmanship but also to their emotional appeal. Executed mainly in traditional Chinese ink and watercolor, Lo Ching Yuan creations are eternally beautiful, open our hearts to a quiet contemplation of nature, and exude the artist’s love for our environment. With growing concerns about climate change and other environmental challenges we are facing today, these works are as relevant as ever, and serve as a beautiful reminder of how precious and important nature is for our quality of life. In The Lion King, Mufasa tells Simba of the ‘circle of life’, and Lo Ching Yuan’s artworks draw our attention to the fragility and ethereality of nature, encourage us to cherish and preserve it, and thus contribute to the continuation of our circle of life.