Curated by Alisan Fine Arts director Daphne King, the show presents Lui’s works next to those of 12 of his students, as well as eight of their students, demonstrating how deep his influence runs. Lui was in his mid-20s when he took up painting, with a determination to revive and reinvigorate traditional Chinese ink painting in the postwar era. In 1948, shortly after the end of WWII, he moved from his home in Guangzhou on the Chinese mainland to the island of Hong Kong. By the late 1950s, he had established himself as a powerful artistic force in his adopted city’s art scene. He eventually would be credited with helping shape the development of art in postwar Hong Kong and fostering the New Ink Painting Movement, which impacted artists in Europe and the States as well.
With works drawn from Lui’s family’s own collection, the exhibition takes viewers through the evolution of the artist’s vision. On view are his semi-abstract views of the mountainous islands and sparkling waterways of Hong Kong and the buildings and boats announcing the human presence within the abundant natural beauty. In Hong Kong at Night 香江夜 (1961), for example, layered ink washes form Hong Kong Island’s vertical terrain. Loosely rendered buildings dotting the hills are set aglow with veils of yellow ink. Representation falls away in Lui’s abstract Zen paintings, which are on view here, too, and are among his most celebrated works. Here, the artist aimed to convey the Zen Buddhist tenets of non-attachment and emptiness, in part by dissociating color and gesture from concrete form. This resulted in lush expanses of black ink, sometimes limned with bright red, overlaying layers of blue ink, or beside circles of sea green. Through his sensitive brushwork, he was able to achieve a visual openness, upon which so many artists continue to draw.
“A Legacy of Ink: Lui Shou-kwan 40 Years On, An Exhibition of Lui Shou-kwan, His Students and a New Generation of Artists” is on view at Alisan Fine Arts, Oct. 2 – 28, 2015.