The distinctive style of young Hong Kong Fine Line artists: what is it and who are they?

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Bovey Lee, Atomic Jellyfish, papercut

 HONG KONG ART REVIEW

Meticulous, pale and delicate, the work of a group of artists from Hong Kong is getting noticed well beyond its borders. Characterised by fine lines and sophisticated irony, these understated works in a variety of media show a provocative subtley which turns its back on the ‘in your face’ thick outlined, neon-coloured flat art derived from Japanese cartoons and Murakami influences ubiquitous in Asia.

In his January 2009 show Music Families at the Singapore Tyler Institute, Wilson Shieh (1970) displayed a series of prints showing naked human figures who , with characteristic irony, are transformed into musical instruments being ‘played’.

A Time Out Singapore review describes his interest in classical techniques: “Shieh’s love of ancient Chinese arts compelled him to master the meticulous 17th-century fine-brush technique of gongbi, a style that calls for precision of detail and a measured hand.”

Last year Wilson Shieh was included in the Hong Kong Museum of Art’s show New Ink Art: Innovation and Beyond and was also selected by Claire Morin of Time Out as one of the Magnificent Seven Hong Kong artists.  Shieh is popular with collectors too and is “arguably Hong Kong’s bestselling contemporary artist” says Morin . His three solo shows in the city since 2001 have completely sold out, and there is a waiting list for his new work. “I always think I’m the lucky one. When I started working in this style 14 years ago, I never dreamed I could sell my work and make a living.”

Wilson Shieh Music Families

Wilson Shieh Music Families

Shieh had a busy year in 2008. His works were shown in international art fairs in Europe and Asia, in June he took part in a two-week residency in Singapore’s Print Institute and he has been organising shows in UK and Taiwan.

 “Artists can do their bit working in their studios, but we need help from others in the art field, the galleries and curators,” suggests Shieh of the current Hong Kong art scene. “Right now we’re lacking curators who can bring our work to an international platform, and galleries who can promote our work.”

Eclipsed by the attention showered on mainland Chinese art, Hong Kong artists have been free from the commercial pressures of their compatriots allowing them to quietly develop a unique aesthetic.  Grotto Fine Art  was the first gallery to recognise it and, almost alone since it was founded in 2001, has been tireless in its promotion of Hong Kong art. It was Grotto who was responsible for bringing the work of Wilson Shieh to collectors in his first sell-out exhibition in 2001. This year Grotto will be active in Art Asia Basel in June 2009 – a debut fair of Asian art to coincide with Art Basel – and at Art Asia Miami in December. If you are a visitor at one of these fairs, it is worth making a special effort to see the Hong Kong works up close because, unlike some art which is enhanced by the backlighting of a computer screen, JPeg images do not do  justice to the subtlety and physical wit of these works.

Grotto’s current exhibition Liners’ Paradox (to Feb 29 2009) is a group exhibition of four Hong Kong contemporary artists, featuring works by Bovey Lee, Joey Leung, Angela Su and Wai Pong-yu. Each of these artists uses different media (paper cutouts, thread, ink, ball point pen) but the delicate lacy-lined aesthetic which ties the works together produces a group show which is successful in giving us a coherent view of what might be called Hong Kong’s very own Fine Line Art movement.

Angela Su, Aporophyla Lutulenta, embroidery

Angela Su, Aporophyla Lutulenta, embroidery

Related links: Hong Kong artists on the fringe – International Herald Tribune – Dec 2007 – we came across this link after this entry was written. A useful piece confirming and elaborating on aspects of the Radar story.

Sources: Grotto Fine Art, Time Out Singapore, Time Out Hong Kong

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