How does traditional Chinese painting absorb Western ideas to produce new trends of thought or new types of painting? The Hong Kong Artist Wilson Shieh modernizes the traditional Chinese Gongbi. He wishes to open up some new variety in this field by combining Gongbi with some modern themes and ideas.
Before graduating from The Chinese University of Hong Kong with an MFA, Shieh actually studied architecture at the University of Hong Kong for one year. It was this year’s experience in the HKU that taught him how to appreciate modern architecture and become interested in it. Later when Shieh began his Gongbi paintings, he thought that the Hong Kong city was packed with commercial buildings. The mountains and rivers in traditional Chinese paintings were not as common. Therefore, Shieh attempted to integrate the various commercial buildings into his paintings by combining people and buildings together.
Modern buildings are full of straight lines. It takes some research to fit these lines on the human body. So there is also a process of design in Shieh’s works, redesigning modern buildings into clothes. In addition to traditional painting techniques and modern themes, his paintings also have unique designs which remarkably blend these elements together.
Fashion is the most popular design item in the contemporary era. Shieh believes there is plenty of artistic knowledge and interesting designs for our reference and learning. However, he felt that it would be mundane to just paint an ordinary person trying on some clothes. Therefore, for the protagonist, Shieh believes that celebrities are the best choice. Firstly, celebrities are people that everyone knows, it is easier to resonate with the audience. In addition, when making movies, stars will have different costumes according to the identities of different characters and the ears they live in. The variety of costumes provides more room for Shieh’s creativity.
While Gongbi is mainline, Shieh also attempts other styles. For example, in one of his recent projects, Shieh tried to paint Chinese porcelain patterns on cardboard boxes. Porcelain, by nature, is delicate and fragile; but the cardboard boxes are rough and relatively durable. He thinks this comparison is very intriguing, so he put the two together and transferred the blue and white to the cardboard box. Many of Shieh’s creations aim to highlight and modernize the quintessence of traditional Chinese art. He wants to make it aligned with the aesthetics of modern people.
Photo Courtesy of the Artist