DREAMING is a great source of inspiration for Tsui Tin-yun, the 50-year-old artist who dreams what he paints. 'I love painting,' the Shanghai-born artist said. 'I even think about it when I'm sleeping, I have always wanted to paint.' His oil painting Innocent Couple of Young Children, to be auctioned at Christie's on Sunday, depicts a dream he had about his childhood. Tsui said it symbolised his wish for Shanghai 'to shine again' in the future. 'What makes me different from other artists is that I want to convey messages in my paintings,' he said. 'In the painting, the dark buildings and the golden sky show the contrast between dream and reality, the bright and the dark. 'The painting is about a feeling, it isn't just a story, it's about a subject, I set the scene and it is up to other people to interpret the meaning.' But Tsui is no scatter-brained dreamer. Until this year, he held a top job with an architecture company drawing illustrations for newspaper advertisements and glossy brochures. 'But I can't waste any more time as I find it more meaningful to contribute to our culture . . . commercial paintings are only good for making money but they are not as long lasting as artistic paintings,' he said. Since giving up the business world, Tsui has begun a series of oil paintings on three themes - native country, old Shanghai and nudes. Painting for leisure, however, has not always been a luxury Tsui could afford. He came to Hong Kong nine years ago to join his parents but was more anxious to earn a living than express his artistic ideas. 'When I arrived, I knew I could paint in Hong Kong because the place has a high degree of creativity,' he said. 'But I spent the next eight years doing commercial drawings and designing. You simply can't live on painting pictures alone. But I never abandoned my love for painting.' Tsui is currently working on his nudes series which mixes images of the human body with symbols. He hopes to have one of these, The Opened Door, auctioned later this year. The oil features a naked woman half hidden behind a traditional heavy wooden Chinese door. 'The painting shows the contradiction of women's liberation in modern day China and the old values of feudal China,' he said. After he began sketching at five, Tsui received a solid art training and graduated from the Shanghai Academy of Arts and Crafts in 1966. 'That was followed by the Cultural Revolution [in 1967], like many other mainland artists at that time, I did a lot propaganda drawings on the streets,' Tsui said. ' After the revolution was over, I went back to designing for advertisements and shop window displays.' It was not until the early 70s that Tsui's works drew attention - and criticism - from the authorities because of his unconventional choice of colours, ideas and style. Ironically, these criticisms had made him famous locally. 'In those days, everything was in red and white,' he said. 'My works, which were more colourful, were criticised for being strange, that is, too Westernised.' Though Tsui focused on designing for advertisements, it was his personal paintings which won him several national prizes. Among them was first prize in the Shanghai Art Exhibition in 1985. He was later invited to exhibit at the Hong Kong Contemporary Art Biennale Exhibition two years later. Tsui chooses to paint in oil because 'I feel that oil as a medium has a bigger impact and makes greater impression'. 'It's like a symphony . . . it is a better form of expression,' he said. 'I also like to paint in details. Traditional Chinese water painting is restricted to ink and it is not too expressive.' Unlike many mainland artists who have left China for the United States, Tsui decided to pursue his career in Hong Kong, partly to be with his family, partly because he wanted to be closer to China. 'A lot of Chinese artists go to the US because there is a bigger market there,' he said. 'But many are returning because it is only in China they can get their inspiration. 'How can you paint something in a foreign country where there is very little you can relate to? Since I have left China, I have discovered that there are a lot of beautiful things there.' Tsui hopes the territory will hold more exhibitions and auctions for contemporary paintings which will encourage local painters to learn from each other and exchange ideas. However, he stressed originality. 'All paintings need an identity, therefore, I don't want to see one series of identical paintings,' he said. 'I may be influenced by other painters but I don't copy. My paintings are like me, they can't resemble the others.'