On the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of Ting Yin-yung’s passing, the Art Museum of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), jointly with New Asia College, the Department of Fine Arts, and the Department’s Alumni Association at CUHK, will present the Sincere Brush: Works of Ting Yin-yung Courtesy of His Students and Friends in the Department of Fine Arts, CUHK from 12 May to 2 July 2018 and 6 July to 2 September 2018. Reminiscent of Ting’s generosity, Ting’s former students and friends at the Department of Fine Arts, CUHK have donated 103 cherished works of Ting over the past few decades to the permanent collection of the Art Museum. An additional eleven items are on loan for display in this exhibition. This exhibition features seventy-four of these works, composed between 1962 and 1978, spanning the sixteen years when Ting was a faculty at the Department. Members of the public are welcome to visit the exhibition. Admission is free.
Ting Yin-yung (1902–1978, courtesy names Shudan and Jibo) was a native of Maopo Village in Xieji Town, Maoming (in present-day Gaozhou), Guangdong province. Returning to China after his studies at the Western Painting Department of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1920–1925, Ting worked in the field of art in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing before settling in Hong Kong in 1949. Over these periods of hardship, he embarked on a long artistic journey to straddle the realms of both Chinese and Western art. Starting his career with oil painting, he was hailed as the ‘Eastern Matisse’ after the French Fauvist painter whose work he appreciated especially. He later turned to traditional Chinese ink painting, as well as calligraphy and seal carving, heavily influenced by Bada Shanren (1626–1705) of the late Ming and early Qing period, which earned him a reputation as the ‘Modern Bada Shanren’. Ting’s art is particularly noted for transcending the East-West divide, with delightful innovations on time-worn subjects. His expressive ink painting, executed with simple, child-like brushstrokes, marks him, by common consent, as a major pioneer in twentieth-century Chinese painting .
In 1957, Ting Yin-yung was invited by Ch’ien Mu (1895–1990) to join New Asia College and took part in the founding of the two-year Fine Arts Specialised Training Programme. It was developed into a four-year undergraduate degree programme in 1959. Upon the establishment of CUHK in 1963, New Asia College was made one of its constituent colleges, and the Department of Fine Arts thus became the first visual arts department at a tertiary institute in Hong Kong. Ting taught as a founding faculty of the Department for twenty-one years, making a signal contribution to tertiary art education in Hong Kong. Known among his student as ‘Master Ting’ (Ding gong), he was a popular and respected teacher. Ting’s class often consisted of a hands-on demonstration; he also made impromptu compositions on subjects requested by students. Swift with his brushwork, Ting left behind myriad works on diverse subjects, with occasional inventive streaks, and mostly they were presented to students in his classes or made available for pick-up by any interested bystanders. Such generosity ensured the large circulation of his paintings, some with similar compositions, which suggests repeated deliberation and practice to achieve the best results.
The exhibits were composed between 1962 and 1978, when Ting was a faculty at the Department. It is also the period when he reached the peak of his artistry. The majority of these works are demonstration sketches made during his classes, which showcase his humour and jest, sorrow and pride, along with his compliments and encouragement, birthday and wedding wishes, and more. One can also catch a glimpse of his ingenuousness and sincere compassion for his students. The exhibition is in two phases and divided into seven sections: ‘Aquatic Lives’, ‘Flowers, Fruit and Insects’, ‘Birds and Land Animals’, ‘Four Elegant Plants’, ‘Figures and Landscapes’, ‘One-Stroke Paintings’ and ‘Calligraphy’. Together they underline Ting’s world of ink art and his teaching in Chinese painting and calligraphy. With the possibility of dating the works according to the years of the students addressed, one has the means to accurately map the trajectory of Ting’s artistic creation and development during his later years. Originating from the Department of Fine Arts, these works have followed the divergent life paths of their owners, with Ting’s blessings, before returning to the CUHK campus as a treasured collection at the Art Museum, bearing witness to the University’s humanistic ideals, the artistic and moral merits of Ting, as well as the lasting bond with his students and friends.