Queen of the Wind Looking at the Luo River Goddess with a Smile

Chak Kwong Lau (Art Historian)

Research output: Non-textual formArtefact

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The work described in this work of calligraphy was supported by a grant (General Research Fund/ GRF) from the Research Grant Council of Hong Kong (Project Number: 12600521/ Project title: Calligraphic Materiality and Multimodality: Modes of Expression and Representation in Chinese Calligraphy and their Dynamics with Contexts of Use in the City of Hong Kong).

The work was exhibited at Hong Kong Art Basel Parallel Exhibition, titled “Ink Subversion: Through Gender Lenses,” curated by Dr Wang Yizhou, Kai Tak Campus, Hong Kong Baptist University, 15 March-10 April, 2024. With the publication of a substantial exhibition catalogue, the exhibition poses the questions: Can we subvert tradition with tradition? What happens when ink meets gender? How can we intervene in the tradition of Chinese art through the lenses of gender?

This work subverts traditional modes of expression in Chinese calligraphy and transforms the two-dimensional format of traditional Chinese calligraphy into a three-dimensional mode of installation of a suspended wooden frame. Through a purposeful accentuation of the materiality of ink on the translucent silk, the work portrays Hong Kong’s first Olympic gold medalist windsurfer Ms Lee Lai-shan, and hence the pride of Hong Kong people.

The notion of feminine beauty ideal has been transforming over time and space. While Rhapsody on the Luo River Goddess (洛神賦 Luoshen fu) by the ancient Chinese poet Cao Zhi (曹植 192-232) had long been reinforcing physical attractiveness, and hence stereotype of ancient Chinese female beauty in the traditional male-dominated society; the windsurfer LEE Lai Shan, Hong Kong’s first Olympic gold medalist, has powerfully subverted the traditional concept of beauty with her sportsmanship. She is revered for her exceptional perseverance in the wind and has thus been nicknamed “Queen of the Wind.” Both emerging from aquatic settings, these two female figures in ancient and contemporary times embody contrasting ideals of femininity. Creating an intriguing dialogue between the contemporary and ancient femininity, the artist overlaid the silhouette of LEE Lai Shan with calligraphic transcription of Rhapsody on the Luo River Goddess based on his classical studies in small-standard (xiaokai 小楷) and small-seal (xiaozhuan 小篆) scripts in Chinese calligraphy. Filled with fluidity and rhythm, the alternating expression of light and heavy strokes echoes with rich variations in ink tonality. Culminating in the rawness of just a thin layer of translucent silk, the work is soaked with a palpable hint of ethereal femininity. Suspended in the air and swaying naturally, the material form of the work connotes imaginations about wind and water. Literally ‘floating in the air’ in the physical space, and fluid like the wind and water, the work’s materiality intensifies its concept and content and celebrates the pride of Hong Kong in a vivid and thought-provoking manner.

With great novelty in thinking, concepts and results, this work is instrumental in developing new paradigms and fundamental new concepts for research and outstandingly creative in terms of significance, originality and rigour, thus making an excellent contribution to knowledge.

Moreover, this work was conducted in conjunction with a fully illustrated book manuscript under preparation, as the same PI’s scholarly research output of the same GRF research (Project Number: 12600521), with the following abstract:
Little research has been conducted on Hong Kong calligraphy. Previous works have largely treated calligraphy as a form of high art, produced and appreciated by only a small community of literati. As a result, it has been generally assumed that calligraphic art is of little importance except to a restricted circle of specialists. To compensate for this neglect of Hong Kong calligraphy’s wider significance, the PI’s previous GRF research, titled ‘Social and Cultural Implications of Chinese Calligraphy in Public Venues in Hong Kong’, examined calligraphic works in public venues around Hong Kong. Research findings revealed that this specific type of calligraphy has been playing a pivotal role in highlighting the cultural and historical significance of ancestral shrines, charity organisations, historic sites, temples, or Christian churches and other public venues. Beyond the scope of the PI’s previous research, this book examines calligraphic materiality and multimodality, and interprets modes of expression and representation in Chinese calligraphy and their dynamics with contexts of use in the city of Hong Kong. Inspiring calligraphic expressions in various sites signify a wide spectrum of traditional cultures, contemporary thoughts, city life, people’s aspirations, thus shedding light on people from different walks of life who make up Hong Kong society and on what has shaped their thoughts and values. Hence, this project will offer a significant contribution to the reconstruction of identity embodied in public calligraphy.
The book’s methodology offers a more encompassing approach for examining and interpreting the relationships and synergistic effects of the following factors: 1) calligraphic aesthetics and style as semiotic resources for meaning making; 2) calligraphic expressions manifested in a wide range of material forms in physical and cyber spaces; 3) alternative modes of calligraphic expression; and 4) calligraphy’s social and cultural contexts and contexts of use in Hong Kong. Scrutinizing calligraphy as a form of aesthetic-object-cum-public-message that connotes more profound meanings pertinent to the city and city life, the new methodology will thereby illuminate how calligraphy has been transformed from a literati-oriented, rarefied form of art with a restricted audience into a more accessible form of visual culture that reaches wider audiences.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputOther
Size230cm x 92cm
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese Calligraphy
  • calligraphic materiality and multimodality
  • Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong art
  • Hong Kong calligraphy

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