Preview: The Yellow River Has Nine Corners

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 5:10pm

The Yellow River Has Nine Corners


Nine is an auspicious number for the Chinese. But not only for the Chinese. The number, which sounds like "longevity" in Cantonese and Putonghua, also holds a special significance for Belgian artist Merel Van Beeumen, whose Hong Kong debut opens this week.

"My whole life, the number nine has been very important to me," says the 58-year-old painter, known in art circles by just her given name. "I've always thought it was my lucky number and so when I paint I often use it to bring luck to others."

Merel travelled throughout the mainland, visiting more than a dozen cities and villages, before ending up in Hong Kong in April last year. Apart from the popular attractions, she also visited galleries to gain a better sense of Chinese art. But it was the streets, and engaging with ordinary folk, that proved the most satisfying. And it was the many symbols, colours and number that inspired her.

"It fascinates me that in Chinese culture a lot of numbers have meaning," she says. "Colour is also very important in my work. Beautiful colours give good energy."

Of the many places she visited on the mainland, Merel credits the city of Kaili, in Guizhou province, for making the biggest impact on her collection. At a market she saw an interesting chop with Chinese characters on it. The storekeeper told her it meant "The Yellow River has nine corners".

"It's not that I'm always thinking about the number," she says, "but here it was again. It just comes."

One of her paintings features a yellow snake in a coiled position ascending in an upward spiral towards the head. The chop can be viewed in nine successive stamps across the bottom. "Sometimes in life you can't go straight. You have to take corners. That's the feeling I have for this."


AO Vertical, 3-13/F Asia One Tower, 8 Fung Yip St, Chai Wan. Mon-Sat, 9am-6pm (closed on public holidays). Tel: 2976 0913 or The show runs from Jan 19 to Feb 23