I was lucky enough to see many Chinese calligraphy and ink paintings, both ancient and contemporary, because of my work in the past. I admire these arts so much but I can’t say I know how to appreciate them. Last week I went to see this mini exhibition of Chiu Ling-ban, a local artist, and realised that I don’t need to know Chinese art to appreciate ink paintings.
The artist has excellent skills in traditional Chinese art, inherited from his father who was also an artist, and was influenced by western styles and skills while he studied abroad, so his works show a blend of both cultures. Like this ink painting above, which captured Tai O, a fish village in Hong Kong decades ago, the skills and style are definitely ‘Chinese’, but some western influence can be seen in the composition. I especially like the vivid and smooth lines of the houses. It looks so effortless and harmonious.
I left the exhibition with some questions though. Putting aside how much it takes to get the skills, even if I can manage the skills, does it mean that I can create paintings like these? Sadly, it seems almost impossible to me. I need to form a picture in my head first for me to draw it. If I can’t depict a Chinese painting in my head, how can I create one, given the same landscape? No one can manage all art styles in the world. I just learnt that I need to see things with that eye when I want to do a particular style, for example, how can I draw an abstract-style painting without having first depicted the landscape/object abstractly in my mind? Excuse me for this late ‘discovery’, I’m sure many of you probably have known that. To do that, I think one way is inevitably to practice and improve the skills, the other way is see lots of good works to immerse yourself in that world.