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Painter Au Ho-nien

Preface

Au Ho-nien

Among the elites of Lingnan School of Chinese painting in these years, I always think of Nigel Szeto, the representative figure that can both preserve and develop his art field at the same time.  Mr Szeto will hold his solo exhibition in Nanjing Museum and published his art album. When he invited me to write a preface, I was excited in this burning heat of August.  For several years, I have savored the spectacular of Kapok tree in his work “The Spring Reds in Lingnan”, and also deeply impressed by his devotion to his pursuit of knowledge by his work of old bamboo and young shoots as well as the simple but profound inscriptions of this piece of work “Portraying is better than copying eventually”.   Moreover, Nigel is not only virtuously filial; his painting skill is also in succession to his father. It can be said that he is enhancing and glorifying his progenitors.   He is just like a scarce stream of pure water amid the turbid art circle.

In the early years when I was in Hong Kong and Macau, I had already admired Nigel’s father, Szeto Kei (Cang-Cheng), for his moral integrity and his painting style.   Among the masters of Lingnan School, he is the one who establishes a good model for combining Chinese humanity and ancient style with Western realistic sketching.   The reason that Nigel can achieve such great stride of painting skill at a tremendous pace is greatly due to his family’s influence.   His father Szeto Kei is befriending with my teacher, Chao Shao-an who also shared a similar approach in art, therefore Nigel not only learnt from his family, but also benefited from other’s guidance.  Under his father’s recommendation, Nigel had become a pupil of Master Chao.   Chao’s unique spirit is definitely influencing Nigel’s painting technique and arts career.   For me, it is really a remarkable fellowship. After occasionally heard of their reminisce, I am already impressed and aspired by those lecturing and admonitory talks.   I therefore understand that Nigel’s attachment and faithfulness towards his family is a kind of preservation of art style; whereas his innovative attempts in art is the main reason for his accomplishment today.

In the past there were conservatives in the art field who mocked Lingnan School as gibberish and scold it as violation and misbehaviors towards the old rules and norms.  However, in the recent hundred years, the three founders of the Lingnan School, Gao Jian-fu, Gao Qi-feng and Chen Shu-ren, were advocating an art direction that merged classic with modern style so that the artist can be free in attaching to or detaching from the ancient masters.  Though these three masters worked independently, they were on the same direction with different styles, and then became epochal masters finally.  During these few decades, masters like Chao Shao-an, Cuan Shan-yue, Li Xiong-lai and Yang Shan-shen were both preserving and expanding the style; both inheriting and innovating this school of thought.  They have developed their own paths and enhanced their ideas respectively.  In fact, there are various styles appeared in Chinese painting field in recent hundred years, and the art scenes have been totally different when there are imitating from the old masters that I have mentioned above.  Even though nowadays there are still people deriding Lingnan School as not innovative enough; it is hard to rapport all opinions but need compromising when it comes to discussion of classic and modern art criticism.  I tend to ignore such trivial arguments and endless disputes.  If an artist can be faithful to himself, dare to create an unique style and produce his own masterpieces, stands firmly without bewildered by the swinging Western art climate, and rejects being as a weak grass that bends with the wind, then this artist as an art preserver can be capable to accomplishment and become a man with insight and courage. When a man had reached such state of mind, he will be a master whatever he attempts to achieve or not and to follow any regulations or not.  Nigel has already reached such attainment in his prime of life; it can be predicted that his success will be immeasurable in the future.  When I know that Master Cang-Cheng had got such qualified successor, Lingnan School’s style will also stand toweringly and open a new page in the twenty first century!

September 2005