Born in Panama in 1905, Luis Chan is one of the most talented masters in modern Hong Kong art. A self-taught genius with a great passion in art, Chan presents through his works an extremely versatile artistic career with constant exploration of different subjects, mediums and techniques. From his realistic watercolour landscapes to his experiments with avant-garde oil paintings on board; and from his explorations of abstract art in acrylic on paper to his embracement of traditional Chinese elements through ink and colour landscapes on paper, Chan gradually developed his distinctive personal style unparalleled to his contemporaries with his unique perspective, expressive use of vivid colour, and adept mastery of ink and brush, which breaks the conventions of both Chinese and Western traditions.
Painted in 1984, The Pacific (Lot 810) is a unique example of Chan’s early 1980s exploration in acrylic that is rarely seen in the market. Thought abstract in style, its overall composition strongly mimics that of the ink and colour landscapes he experimented earlier during the 1970s. Reflecting upon the ascension structure in the monumental Song landscape tradition, Chan presents in this work an illusionistic visual journey in three stages, allowing the viewer to first enter into the pictorial narration through striking visual conflicts against the black background, then resume peace and order from chaos in the soothing blue section, and finally free their mind and imagination in the upper yellow section with spontaneous splashes of pink.
Completed in the same year, Untitled (Sunset Gathering) (Lot 811) is representative of Chan’s figure paintings recording his observation and interpretation of daily urban life. The bold application of lively colours combined with rhythmic lines and patterns in fluid brushwork captured the dynamic group of people gathered under the setting sun, full of energy and excitement exaggerated by a touch of theatricality seen in their costumes. Chan’s innovative depiction of modern life focusing on people and their psychological states set him apart from other artists in the same era, such as Lui Shou-Kwan and Wucius Wong, who mainly concentrated on Chinese landscapes. The curator and critic Gao Shiming once remarked, the fantasies depicted in Chan’s work can be seen as a reaction to and reflection of this anarchic land as well as a witty display of the modernization of Hong Kong culture.1
1 Gao Shiming, “Luis Chan: “Diaspora – Outsider”, The World of Luis Chan, Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong, 2012
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