Beauty of nature inspires

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 January, 2012, 12:00am


The late Chinese artist Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010) appreciated music more than his own medium, painting. He said: 'Of all the arts, music is held in the highest regard.' Taking its cue from the spirit of those words, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department has created an exhibition of Wu's works that combines art, dance and music entitled Wu Guanzhong: Painting{bull}Dance{bull}Music.

Many of Wu's works were created using dots, lines and cubes, landscapes painted in oils and the traditional Chinese medium of ink on paper. His distinctive style has been described as Chinese in outlook and modern in conception, drawing on Western influences of abstraction and inspired by the beauty of nature.

Wu is recognised as a master of modern Chinese painting, and was one of the earliest mainland artists to gain international recognition. In 1992, he became the first living artist from China to stage a solo exhibition at the British Museum in London.

More than 20 of Wu's paintings will be on show at the exhibition, including Faces Unchanged, which is part of the museum's collection. It was painted in 2001 using ink and colour on paper, and features small coloured shapes that bring to mind a lively musical rhythm, epitomising the links between art and music.

Mending Nets, a 2009 work in oil on canvas, comprises abstract lines depicting abandoned fishing nets. Wu gave 50 paintings to the Hong Kong Museum of Art, including Mending Nets, Victoria Harbour and Two Swallows. The artist visited Hong Kong regularly, and held exhibitions in 1995 and 2002.

Highlights of the exhibition include Former Residence of Qiu Jin and Reminiscence of Jiangnan, both of which feature geometric shapes in black and white.

Under the direction of artistic director and choreographer, Leung Kwok-shing, the Hong Kong Dance Company created a dance poem entitled Two Swallows: Ode to Wu Guanzhong, with music composed by the Hong Kong Pure Strings sextet led by Leung Kin-fung.

The dance is set in the countryside beside the Yangtze River, and its theme is Wu's lifelong pursuit of freedom and an exploration of the artistic ideal. The dance was performed live at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in November last year, and extracts of the performance are shown at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, enabling audiences to experience the multiple artistic levels of Wu's art through dance, music and the visual form.

The dance was inspired by eight of Wu's paintings and takes its name from one of his masterpieces, Two Swallows, which is also on show. The painting is an elegant combination of geometric shapes, rectangles, cubes and lines in black and white, created in 1981 in ink and colour on paper - and with not a swallow in sight.

Born in Yixing in Jiangsu province, Wu studied electrical engineering before switching to art, graduating from the National College of Art in Hangzhou in 1942. In 1948, he moved to Paris to study art at the Ecole Nationale Sup?rieure des Beaux Arts.

Two years later, he returned to China to teach at the Central Academy of Art in Beijing before being banned from painting in 1966 at the onset of the Cultural Revolution. He resumed painting in the 1970s, and the Central Academy hosted a major exhibition of his work in 1978.