Brush with tradition in Cheng's paintings

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 April, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 April, 1993, 12:00am

Cheng Wei-kok, Hongkong Museum of Art, until April 21 New Landscapes, Paintings of Pat Hui, Alisan Fine Arts, until April 30 IN the past two decades I have become used to recognising, at the merest glance, the paintings of Cheng Wei-kok. Their sheer originality strike loud, clear notes. To try to describe them is another matter.

If you care to, imagine that the Chinese have migrated to another galaxy in the Ming dynasty and, carrying with them a knowledge of traditional painting, re-established a parallel Chinese civilisation there - you may begin to get an idea of what their (and Cheng's) paintings were like.

The subtle hills, streams, waterfalls and naked skies , all turned into a surging of smooth forms and hard edges swirling in space - yet still deeply redolent of traditional paintings.

Cheng's brilliant conception of Chinese paintings is unique, violently yet quietly disconcerting, and plants an all but psychedelic milestone on the road of the long succession of Chinese painters and their evolving art.

Pat Hui at her best is a sort of Chinese minimalist. The most solid, expressive thing in her paintings is her calligraphy of Song poems, which is equated with, backed by, mingled with, somewhat tentative areas of bright, unemphatic watercolour, that often just touches at the top of the written area.

There is a spare elegance, a wraith-like beauty in the results which would perhaps have been more gripping had the calligraphy been of a more exciting rather than a mundane style. But these works have a cool charm and, giving a new look to the traditional Three Perfections (painting, calligraphy, poetry), are a welcome contribution to the metamorphosis of Chinese aesthetics.