PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 November, 2003, 12:00am

Q I've started investing in contemporary paintings from around Asia. I've heard whispers about Mongolian art. What is coming from that region? WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Chances are, they were talking about Inner Mongolian artist Deng Xiaohong, the artist in the re-launch exhibition of Chouinard Gallery, now under Hong Kong designer and businesswoman Sin Sin.

Patrick Chouinard, who first opened the gallery with the same artist, questions the label. 'I wouldn't say there's recognisable Mongolian art any more. At the moment, it's difficult to define Chinese art. It's even more difficult to define it by narrow geographic regions like Mongolia.

'In the past, Mongolian art followed traditional Chinese art. Purely representational and figurative, no abstracts. Lots of country life, landscape, frescos, people working the fields.'

Deng uses symbols of his native Inner Mongolia, particularly landscapes and workers in the fields, but clearly shows a mix of influences. 'The work reflects both the traditional as well as the contemporary elements of China,' Chouinard says.

'You see the farm scenes in the background which are typical of Chinese frescos that were painted for many, many generations, and then you see these bigger developments which represent modern-day Chinese, juxtaposing the old and the new.'

The artist describes some of the other influences that make his work unique: 'In the 1980s, my work focused on realism. Then in 1989, I went to Dunhuang [in Gansu province] for the first time and was deeply moved by the frescos, and the Chinese and eastern elements. Before 1996, my works focused on depicting life in Inner Mongolia. After, I wanted to represent more of China and Asia in general.'

Chouinard says Deng's paintings offer social commentary about life in northern China. 'For example, you'll see what looks like the same farmer's fields that you'll find in the background in the faces and on the bodies of the people, showing their dependence on the land,' he says.

NEW COLLECTOR TIPS: 'The first thing I tell people about investing is choose the paintings you like,' Chouinard says. 'Surely, you can make a lot of money investing in art. Most of the artists I've represented, their prices have doubled or tripled over a three- to five-year period.

'The role of the gallery is to recommend artists they think have the greatest potential. You should stick to a gallery that you like - it's like choosing an investment adviser.'

He also advises buying for the long term. 'The value of art is less volatile than stocks. It's more like blue-chip stocks. There is a bit more risk investing in up-and-coming artists, but the appreciation in value can go up three times, four times faster than established artists, and the price point is lower so you can get into it a lot easier.' You could, for example, buy Deng's work for between $4,000 and $70,000.

Resources: Asia Art Archive, 8, 2/F, Wah Koon Building, 181 to 191 Hollywood Rd, Sheung Wan, tel: 2815 1112,

Chouinard Gallery, G/F, 1 Prince's Terrace, Mid-Levels, tel: 2858 5072, www.Chouinard