Magically real world

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 December, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 December, 1993, 12:00am

The Heart of the City, Works by Luis Chan and Mak Yee-fun; Hanart TZ Gallery until December 11.

LUIS Chan is 89 and Mak Yee-fun is 44 years his junior. Both have cause to celebrate their achievement in art.

Luis Chan is a painter hard to pigeon-hole. His mature painting has been described as ''magic realism'', or as having elements of James Ensor (when I suggested this to Chan some years ago, he had never heard of the Belgian painter).

Certainly his world is one of the imagination in which people and their everyday environment are liberated from the constraints of gravity that ties down the world.

They and the land can take off, can inhabit another element.

A giant fish, whose body is partly formed by human faces, sails like some dirigible well above the horizon with an air of quiet content in a painting of such assurance that you accept it as reality.

In another, the pyramidal group of people are clothed (as Chan's people mostly are) in soft greens and purples and brown, and is named The Visitor.

There is no visitor to be seen, though some of the faces look up as to a bird or a jet.

Such pyramidal groupings are a favourite device, more than one in many pictures.

In the miraculous Picnic there are three groups wearing funny headgear, with a glimpse of water and a couple of striped shapes (boats? buoys?) before a low range of hills.

This is the most typical and the most successful of this type of image in the exhibition.

The dribbled acrylic works, such as Sea Creatures, are to me less riveting.

Chan is a truly original painter without whose work the world would be much the poorer. The mordant humour of it is irresistible.

Mak Yee Fun is the leading potter in Hong Kong. Her range of thrown and altered vessels is attractive and deceptively simple.

The gamut of pots and vases explores the range of metallic glazes - cobalt, manganese, iron and nickel with an inventive assurance that is the hallmark of her mature style.

She is an artist accomplished enough not to quail under the gaze of Luis Chan's masterly achievement in paint.