Lui Shou-Kwan: Shifting Landscapes

Lui Shou-Kwan: Shifting Landscapes
Lui Shou-Kwan Birds 鳥, 1968, ink and color on rice paper 34 x 45.5cm
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Lui Shou-Kwan: Shifting Landscapes
February 27 to April 27, 2024
Alisan Fine Arts
120 E 65th
St, New York, NY 10065

Alisan Fine Arts is delighted to announce Shifting Landscapes, a solo exhibition celebrating the art of pioneering ink artist Lui Shou-Kwan (1919-1975). Shifting Landscapes, Lui’s first exhibition in New York, presents transformative works from the artist’s career that bridge tradition and modernity while sparking new dialogue in the international art community.

Lui was a vanguard figure of the New Ink Movement in Hong Kong, a movement that reimagined the Chinese Ink tradition and flourished from the 1950s to 1970s. Extremely influential to generations of artists after him, Lui was instrumental in transforming traditional Chinese ink painting into a modern, global art form. Surveying three decades, Shifting Landscapes will run from February 27 to April 27, 2024, at Alisan Fine Arts’ recently opened New York gallery. The opening reception is Tuesday, February 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at 120 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065.

Lui Shou-Kwan: Shifting Landscapes
Lui Shou-Kwan
Zen Painting 1965 Winter 禪畫 1965 冬日, 1965
ink and color on rice paper , 94.5 x 45 cm

Lui inherited his interest in painting from his father, Lui Canming (1892-1963), a scholar-painter and antique shop owner. Prior to a decisive move to Hong Kong in 1948, Lui studied Chinese painting by copying classical works by past masters, such as Bada Shanren (1626-1705, Ming Dynasty), Shitao (1642-1707, Qing Dynasty) and Huang Binhong (1865-1955).

Throughout his time in Hong Kong—then under British Colonial rule—Lui was exposed to Western modern art, including Abstract Expressionism. These influences catalyzed a pivotal shift in Lui’s philosophy of art; he came to believe that true artistry lay not in imitation, but in personal expression and the development of a distinctive artistic voice. Lui’s landscape works were inspired by Hong Kong’s mountains and harbors, which he observed during his time working as an inspector in 1948 for the Hong Kong and Yaumatei Ferry Company. As his work matured, two distinct styles developed: one traditional and the other more modern.

After the Visit to Tai Po Kau (1966) and Lu Keng (1969) are examples of his traditional landscapes, the latter of which he used as a teaching aid. At the same time, his new philosophy presented itself in landscape works which became increasingly abstract, with boats, houses and seaside cliffs reduced to simple, expressive brushstrokes. Red Mountain Landscape (1962) is a striking example of this, where broad swathes of ink and color reveal themselves to be mountains only after the viewer notices the small painted boats in the foreground.

Lui Shou-Kwan: Shifting Landscapes
Lui Shou-Kwan
Lotus A63-60 荷 A63-60, 1963, ink and color on rice paper, 45 x 47cm

Lui began to shift toward abstraction as early as the 1950s, influenced by his encounter with Sam Hunter’s book “Modern American Painting and Sculpture,” paying particular attention to artists like Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Rothko, Philip Guston, Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky and Jackson Pollock. As he continued to embrace modernism as a pursuit of individual expression and freedom, Lui profoundly explored pure abstraction in his new Zen paintings.

Influenced by Buddhist meditation and Daoist philosophy, Liu’s Zen paintings are less about the abstraction of the natural world and more a representation of spiritual concepts and mental states, replete with ink splashes and geometric shapes. While created in parallel to that of his American contemporaries, Lui’s art diverges in its introspective journey, symbolized by the lotus in his Zen paintings—a growth from murky waters to spiritual enlightenment. Zen Painting 1965 Winter (1965) and The Reveal of the Inner Pond (1969) both feature Lui’s signature red ‘lotus’, a visual metaphor for a state of mind that is untainted by the external world and reflective from within, embodying the essence of his artistic and spiritual quest.

Lui Shou-Kwan: Shifting Landscapes
Lui Shou-Kwan
Birds 鳥, 1968, ink and color on rice paper 
34 x 45.5cm

By the 1970s, Lui’s pioneering visual language had galvanized an international recognition of the Chinese ink painting tradition and brought contemporary interpretations to the forefront of the art world. His influence was pivotal to the New Ink movement, by then an international movement exploring thousand-year-old techniques alongside the developments and inspiration of expressionistic and conceptual art. As a revered educator and prominent figure in the New Ink movement and to other artists working in Hong Kong, Lui shaped a generation of artists who carried forward the torch of innovation he lit.

Coinciding with Asia Week in March, Shifting Landscapes will be presented in conversation with Landscape as Metaphor: Contemporary Voices, a group exhibition of works by contemporary artists in Alisan Fine Arts’ adjacent gallery. Artists Bouie Choi, Chu Chu, Lam Tung Pang, Kelly Wang and Yang Yongliang each distinctively interpret the subject of landscape.

Bouie Choi uses reclaimed wood, allowing inconsistencies and unexpected textures in the wood to inform compositions that depict the urban scenery of Hong Kong; Chu Chu uses photography as a backdrop to her flowing, effervescent calligraphy; Lam Tung Pang’s recent landscapes on wood panel are a reflection on his relocation in 2022 from Hong Kong to Vancouver; Kelly Wang creates otherworldly scenes that hover on the edge of abstraction, using rolled newsprint and mixed media; and Yang Yongliang creates fictional landscapes in a traditional Chinese style using recomposed photographs of contemporary urban images. Landscape as Metaphor: Contemporary Voices will run from February 27-April 27.

Lui Shou-Kwan: Shifting Landscapes opens on February 27 until April 27, 2024 at Alisan Fine Arts

©2024 Alisan Fine Arts, Lui Shou-Kwan