Shanghai Chinese Painting Academy Collection
Low Block, Hong Kong City Hall
Reviewed: September 21
The collection's 100 ink-on-paper and calligraphy works reveal that there's a lot more to Chinese painting than traditional styles. The works, from the 1950s to the present day, are by 77 former students of the academy.
The collection is a joy to see. At each corner hang large and medium-sized pieces, sumptuous paintings worth an estimated $100 million. The Long March Series - Life (2004) by Shi Dawei, in haunting shades of grey, has Mao Zedong in his prime as the central figure. Surrounding him are shadowy glimpses of faces with varying expressions of anguish and happiness. White paint drips down like blood.
Another political piece is Han Shuo's life-sized Patriotism (1999), of the so-called Seven Gentlemen (one of whom was a woman), who were arrested after fighting for the release of political prisoners during the Sino-Japanese war.
In contrast, there are light-hearted pieces such as Zhang Guiming's Lotus (2000). It has a Miro-like quality, with lively defined shapes in primary colours and grey.
Of the more traditional works, Cheng Shifa's Fan Li and Xi Shi (1981) portrays tranquillity and the intimacy of a couple enjoying each other's company in a boat, as the viewer peers through tree branches.
Overall, the show is an exceptional collection of Chinese art that exemplifies the mastery and individuality of the academy's artists.