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Chairman Xu Huping

A Lingnan Exotic Flower Enters Jinling

Lingnan School is one of the fabulous branches among the contemporary Chinese painting art history.  Although the name given as “Lingnan” that points out its geographical origin; indeed there are people all over China that model or follow the style secretly and its glory reaches overseas, which is in a tripartite honor with “Jingpai” (school from the capital region in the north) and “Haipai” (school from the Jiangsu and Zhejiang region).  It is a common view that is recognized by the art field.

To retrace, we can date back to Daoguang period in Qing Dynasty.  Li Bingshou (Yunfu) had taken up the post of official in Guangdong, and he respectfully invited Song Guangbao (Outang) and Meng Guanyi (Litang), the two Jiangsu artists, to teach bird-and-flower painting in Yue province.  Song, Meng and Li Bingshou were known as the members of “The Sixteen Artists Fellowship in Jiadao Period” and their “boneless technique” in bird-and-flower painting was eminent.  They passed on this technique to the Yue people, the brothers of Juchao (Meisheng) and Julian (Guquan).  Later the Ju brothers established an art studio to teach apprentices in their home place and thus enhanced and glorified this steam of art.  Julian had built the “Xian Yue Qin Guan” in Geshan, and named himself as “The Geshan Old Man”.  He has numerous students in Guangzhou and Fujian.  Among the followers, there were two outstanding pupils, Gao Jianfu and Chen Shuren.

During the end of Qing Dynasty and the beginning of the new republic period, Gao Jianfu, with his younger brother Gao Qifeng and Chen Shuren, had went aboard Japan for further studies of Western art painting technique.  When they had finished their studies and returned to China, they found that the Chinese art field was full of impassivity at that time.  The artists imitated of the paintings of the “Four Wangs” of Qing Dynasty as a prevailing trend, and there was no room for innovation.  Therefore, they advocated the “New National Painting (xin guohua)” that promotes the revolution of art, took “Combining Chinese and Foreign; Merging Ancient and Modern” as their creative idea, and encouraged the learning from the Nature and giving weight to sketching.  Later it is called “Two Gao and one Chen” as the founder of the Lingnan Art School.

Within the pupils of the secondary generation of Lingnan Art School, Chao Shaoang, Szeto Kei, Guan Shanyue, Li Xiongcai and Yang Shanshen were the prominent ones.  Among all, Szeto Kei had laid a groundwork for Western art.  His oil painting “The Wife of the Artist” had won the first prize of the nation-wide Art Exhibition in 1928, and he later established the “Liefeng Art School”.  Gao Jianfu always encouraged Li Xiongcai to learn sketching from Szeto Kei, and this reflects how Szeto Kei had earned his master’s trust.

Nigel Szeto has succeeded his family’s teaching since his childhood.  He was close with the masters in the art field, so that he is really exceptionally gifted.  He studied abroad in Canada when he was a teenager, and absorbed the merits of both the West and the East.  He is unremitting to his studies and becomes a graceful and cultivated gentleman. He follows the traditional method of outline drawing, and derives color setting from the Western art.  He draws the old tree and withered vine without vulgar, and rose and red kapok with different charms and postures.  We found the charm of plantain courtyard overflowing in every corner of the paper; and the wide coral (kapok) is exhibiting its spectacular grandeur.  Old bamboo and young shoots are so delicately visualized, and the peacock spread its tail with magnificence.  The drawings are like competing with each other, and the painting is so vivid and lively.  He teaches his art all around in Hong Kong with dozens of pupils.  He holds his art exhibitions over the north and the south with fame and praises.  That is why Professor Au Honien, the Lingnan Art School master, appreciates Nigel Szeto as “enhancing the tradition and glorifying his family teaching, which is rare and commendable like a pure fluid of water”.  It is really a fresh comment.

After viewed his work “The Spring Reds of Lingnan” and read his book “The Interpretation of Bird-and-flower Painting of Nigel Szeto” it is clear that his art development not only inherited from Lingnan Art School but is also enhanced by his own innovations.  The composition of picture is unique; the brushwork is incomparable, and it can be said that he had reached a fabulous accomplishment.

This time, Nigel Szeto displays his recent works to meet friends.  It is a feast for the eyes by such dazzling exhibits, and this artist from Yue (the Guangdong region) is like an exotic flower that shows up on the top of the town that all other beauties become colorless.  It is my pleasure to write the preface.

Chairman of the Nanjing Museum, Xu Huping

15th September 2005