Jiang Zemin

Creative Cities Collection: 500 Chinese and International Artists

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am


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Dominic Lam Man-kit's Olympian journey began with a single step in 2002: he accepted an offer that changed his life.

President Jiang Zemin had ordered the Fangfeiyuan Villa built in the Diaoyutai State Guest House compound in Beijing, and Feng Shusen, its director general, invited Lam to provide three paintings. 'It was an honour considering I had been living in the United States and had American citizenship,' says Lam, now 64, who assumed he was selected because he combined a contemporary style of painting with traditional Chinese training.

Three years later, the Shantou-born artist's name again came up when the mainland authorities were looking to create a modern face for the 5,000-year-old civilisation, to be presented at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. This time, Lam was asked for a logo and a painting.

His logo had the Chinese character for 'humanity' sitting atop the five Olympic rings.

The painting, titled Millennium Odyssey: From Athens to Beijing, was about a journey - one Lam assumed would end for him at the Beijing Games. He was wrong.

Last year, the International Olympic Committee of Fine Arts Commission requested a sequel painting to represent Hong Kong at the 2012 London Olympics.

Millennium Odyssey 2: From the Great Wall to the River Thames - Embrace the World (below) is better seen in the light of the original, which depicts a journey that starts from the Parthenon in Greece (host of the 2004 Games), to Egypt's Pyramids and India's Buddha, and ends at the Great Wall of China.

The realism of the second work contrasts with the abstract and dream-like original. 'The image is more realistic and representational, whereas the 2008 painting is a bit more Impressionistic or abstract,' Lam says.

This time, the journey is reversed, from the Great Wall to the Big Ben in London. There's also the Buddhist lotus, the Christian cross, and Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, to represent mankind's philosophical journey along with the physical journey to these famous structures.

Millennium Odyssey 2 will go on display at the Barbican Centre in London this week, with 500 works from the other Olympics member countries around the world. A fitting conclusion to an incredible life's journey - but certainly not the end.

Barbican Arts Centre, London, Thursday to Aug 7