Sky Rains GrainKurt Chan Solo Exhibition
10 March – 26 Apr 2022
Prof. Kurt Chan Yuk Keung was born in Hong Kong in 1959. He graduated from Department of Fine Arts, the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1983. Later, he obtained his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, USA. Chan is regarded as a prominent figure in the Hong Kong contemporary art scene since the 1990s, with installation and mixed media art as his early artistic practices. He began his pedagogic career in Department of Fine Arts, The Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1989. Having pioneered in teaching installation and mixed media art in systematically structured courses, he nurtured a generation of local art talents. His students also include pivotal figures in the Hong Kong contemporary art scene and educators from various tertiary education institutions. In 2016, Chan retired from his 27-year teaching career at CUHK and later became the Acting Director of Hong Kong Art School.
Chan participated in more than 80 exhibitions, including the 51st Venice Biennale (2005) and the 3rd Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (1999). His creative process is mainly about redefining the textual relationship of found objects through their physicality, which instils his works with a poetic aura. In 2016, he began deploying painting as his major creative medium which is backboned by methodologies of Chinese calligraphy. He focuses on the calligraphic quality in painting and searches for a balance between the Western rational tradition and the Eastern expressionist tradition in his practice.
Chan’s creative principle focuses on comparing Chinese and Western cultures, while exploring the restrictions of various artistic rhetoric and mediums. In his artistic practice, he tries to embrace the diversity in current times using simpler forms and to deploy his exquisite traditional training into the contemporary expressions.
Apart from creating and teaching, Chan has put his focus on public art since 2000, curating and participating in in various large-scale public art projects. He is also one of the founders and editors-in-chief of the Hong Kong Visual Arts Yearbook.
“Painting words is an act of amending, re-writing a word within the same space repeatedly.” Kurt Chan Yuk Keung
Derived from the Chinese classical allusion of Cangjie’s invention of Chinese characters, Sky Rains Grain is a tale that tells how the gods blessed human by raining grain on the earth, as they feared that people would fall into idleness after indulging in the smartness of wordplay. Fascinated by the Chinese language, Chan sought to use his paintings to explore how words could both be an art form and a tool for communication. By restructuring Chinese characters and experimenting the use of forms and colours, Chan manages to break through the classical notions of Yin and Yang, light and shadow, in both Eastern and Western painting practices. Simultaneously, he brings forth the spontaneity that lies in traditional Chinese calligraphy and modern art to a sublime in his process of “painting words”. As his act of word-painting weaves a complex, multilayered web of aesthetic and literary ideology, he endows his works with a metaphysical spirit of traversing between the visual and the metaphorical.
“When creating art installations, I focus more on the cultural significance and the weight of the object. Much like the scaffolding of a building, I tend to use lighter structures to support their heavy counterparts. As in my calligraphy, it is a combination of dots and lines – so when I draw a word, I am also dealing with structural issues.” Kurt Chan Yuk Keung
To Chan, words and calligraphy are an edifice of structures and meanings. Through reconstructing the deconstructed characters, he leads his viewers on a captivating visual journey that banishes the boundaries set by words. Along with the floating, vividly coloured lines and strokes, he transcends his painted words beyond semiotic meaning.