Prodigy with a palette

Mabel Sieh

Kwan Yuk-lun is not your average teen. He is a budding artist who finds comfort in painting

Mabel Sieh |

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Kwan Yuk-lun, winner of a Unicef art competition, is holding an art exhibition in Tsuen Wan.
At first sight, 16-year-old Kwan Yuk-lun seems like your usually quiet, well-mannered teen. "I'm just an average student like any other," he confirms.

But appearances can be misleading. The Form Five student at St Joseph's Anglo-Chinese School is hardly average - not when it comes to his artistic talents.

Last May, Yuk-lun won the first prize in the 14-to-16-year-old category of Unicef's 10th International Art Competition "Inne Spojrzenie" ("A Different Look") in Poland. He was invited to paint for Unicef's global hand-washing day in October. His work was used as the organisation's Hong Kong Facebook timeline that month.

Last month, Yuk-lun launched his first solo exhibition, Looking to the Future, at the Citywalk Gallery in Tsuen Wan.

"I am grateful to be recognised when I am this young," he says.

Yuk-lun's exhibition includes a selection of his artworks in different media. On show are pieces he produced in Primary One when he first learned how to draw in a studio in Lam Tin. He has since produced more than 100 pieces of art.

Art has become his passion.

"Drawing makes me happy; it allows me to express my emotions and ideas. Sometimes, it helps to turn my negative thoughts around," he says.

Yuk-lun's father is ill, and last year, he had to stop working and stay home to rest. His mother has stayed home to take care of him. Both Yuk-lun and his sister have been doing part-time jobs at a fast-food restaurant to help out.

For a year he has been working after school four to five days a week, from 6pm till 1am.

"It was difficult at first. I was down and worried about my family's situation, and I was tired from work," he recalls. "But the experience has taught me things, like how to communicate with others."

He uses the little spare time he has to draw. Whenever he feels stressed, he turns to his brushes.

"I'll draw something with dark colours; it helps me to release my negative thoughts and then I'll feel better," the young artist explains.

One of his favourite paintings on show at his exhibition is entitled Human?. It is based on Danish author Hans Christian Andersen's famous short story The Little Match Girl. In his painting, the guests become animals, reflecting their coldness towards the girl lying on the street. "I think people should care more about each other, rather than being cold and indifferent," he says.

But he disagrees with some government policy on poverty. "Giving money to the poor is not the most important thing," he says. "What we teenagers need is opportunity. We all have dreams and want to do something with our lives. If the government can provide us with more opportunities and support, that would be great."

In line with his exhibition's title, he is looking to the future. "I want to study fashion design in college," he says. "And I will continue to draw."

Yuk-lun's exhibition is on show at the Citywalk Gallery, Tsuen Wan, until February 28