New Age Artists Add Life To Ancient Gongbi Techniques With A Modern Twist
The contemporary gongbi artists in Hong Kong have formed a unique school of painters who are enjoying quite a strong fan base there. This school of painting has adapted the Chinese fine-brush tradition to depict more modern themes with a charming sense of aesthetics.
One of the prominent ones of this genre of artists to have emerged with a distinctive personal style is the very talented 30 years young Barbara Tak-yee. The paintings she has put up for a showcase till the 23rd of August at Grotto Fine Art in Wyndham Street, Central are bright and colorful Chinese shanshui (brush and ink) landscapes with a unique twist as taster for her solo exhibition that is scheduled for October.
In her paintings we can see the traditional elements like stylized mountains and ribbons of mist quite clearly, but Hong Kong landmarks like the embroidery shops of Shanghai Street, Kowloon, and the Flower Market in Mong Kok too have found their place in her masterpieces.
The artists says that she learned her gongbi techniques at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and loved to observe and draw goldfish. To practice drawing them, she would regularly visit the Mong Kok goldfish market; it is during these trips that she began to notice the thinning out of many vendors and old shops around Hong Kong.
She uses her paintings to cope with and resist changes, and no matter how modern her subjects maybe, she is very particular about using traditional materials for the art form. It was because of her dissatisfaction with the quality of water and the dusty environment that interfered with her colors and materials that she eventually gave up her shared studio in Fo Tan.
Another young artist who picked the gongbi style at the Chinese University is Chan Kwan-lok whose ink on paper drawings are mostly on subject related to water. His paintings are known to have killer whales coming up for air, which is a completely novel subject in Chinese paintings or Kabuki actors donning swimming goggles. The latter are in fact a series of paintings that showcase a combination of two of Chan’s favorites, art and swimming. As Chan talks about his works, he mentions that the eight guys are warming up right before the competition and he is familiar with the mixed feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and excitement that it evokes. It is with the intent to exaggerate the emotions that he made the characters look like they were stage actors.
It was only in 2015 that Chan finished his graduation and is still in the process of exploring different styles. With the background in competitive swimming, Chan intends to keep testing his own limits and limitations. His next focus would be exploring the genre of thumb-sized works which he plans to exhibit in September.