They may be from two different cities and have different styles, but over the past two decades ink painters Yang Xiaoyang and Wong Chau-tung have shared one common passion: to develop the traditional art form among their peers and promote it to a wider audience.
The upcoming "Ink of Two Cities - Shenzhen & Hong Kong Metropolitan Ink Painting Exhibition" is the fruit of a collaboration that dates back to 2006 when Yang from Shenzhen and Hongkonger Wong first organised a cross-border cultural exchange.
"In the art world, painters can further develop and enrich their unique artistic language by learning from each other," says Yang. "A closer relationship between these two cities is hoped to be formed through this exchange. I hope ink painters from Beijing and Shanghai can join us in the near future."
The theme of the current show is cultural diversity and its influence and impact on artists. While Shenzhen, a migrant city, has a diverse Chinese population, Hong Kong has a big international community. Artists from the two cities have very different takes on urban life and that difference creates room for them to exchange ideas artistically.
Ink is traditionally used to paint natural landscapes, and since the 1990s, many mainland artists have been using this medium to depict an urban life that has been affected by the rapid socioeconomic development and reformation of southern China.
"The process of urbanisation has not only changed traditional values and societal norms, but also brought a concept of 'metropolitan ink painting' to the art world," says Yang. "Transforming this traditional method to its present day form [of painting urban life] has opened a new path for future artists."
Wong believes artists in southern China are more likely to experiment with the medium: "The north is deeply grounded with traditional methods, while the south is not as restricted due to our multicultural environment," he says. "I hope urban life and metropolitan ink painting become a style that is associated with this region."
More than 40 artists will be featured in the exhibition, part of the Hong Kong Shenzhen Creative Arts Festival, organised jointly by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council; the Culture, Sports, and Tourism Administration of Shenzhen Municipality; and the Shenzhen City of Design Promotion Office. Other participating artists include Dong Xiaoming, Leung Yu, Zhou Ming, Wucius Wong and Wong Hau-kwei.
"Many are young artists that have a fresh take on our theme," says Yang. "The artworks selected aim to reflect urban landscapes, ideologies and atmospheres from their respective regions."
The artists must have their own technique and style, says Wong.
Exhibition Gallery, Sha Tin Town Hall, 1 Yuen Wo Rd, Sha Tin, Sat-Mon, 10am-8pm, Fri, 5pm-8pm. July 18-28. Inquiries: 2820 1091