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My Vision of Hong Kong

My Vision of Hong Kong

Hong Kong was an attitude changer. It widened my horizons, introduced me to exotic subjects and toughened me up as a working painter. Expats and ‘locals’ from varied professions rubbing shoulders professionally and socially, created a new ’buzz’.

Adjusting to daily life as a resident of Hong Kong, far from the British art establishment, I responded freely to the potent imagery of my new surroundings. Not knowing that this was the start of a long relationship with China, that would become central to my oeuvre as an artist.

Wanchai Street Market Hong Kong | 1997 | Oil

With a slimmed-down identity and clean slate, unknown and ready to go, I painted what I saw in an uncomplicated way. Apart from the obligatory views painted for clients from their high rise balconies, I found that I was not alone in my love of the subjects I found on the streets.

Dried Food Shop, Western District | Hong Kong | 1989 | Watercolour

Taking up residence in the fishing island of Cheung Chau I had a ready source of Waterside inspiration.

Painting the Typhoon Shelter in Oils Cheung Chau 1986 Photo

The timeless ‘theatre’ of daily routines that surrounded the boats and their fisher families before ‘setting sail’ was acted out …. loading and unloading, preparing, repairing, working, feeding and caring for young and old.

Fishing Family sampans Cheung Chau 1989 Watercolour
Fishing Family sampans Cheung Chau 1989 Watercolour

Day trippers came and went, surfed, tricycled, strolled and ate at the fish restaurants. Mourners processed from the pier to the ‘good joss’ of distant graveyards.

Mending Nets | Cheung Chau | 2019 | Watercolour

An hour’s ferry trip, between outlying islands, past sampans and container ships, took me to the heart of Hong Kong’s high rise commercial metropolis. From here on foot, train or slowly jolting tram, to the bustle of Causeway Bay, Western District or The Star Ferry to Kowloon and beyond. Markets, cafes and shops, open to the elements, spilling out onto the streets.

Garden Road from Hutchison’s | Hong Kong | 2005 | Watercolour

Lured by the charm of the rough and ready. My painting subjects, intriguing to me, peculiar to Hong Kong, struck universal chords. Vibrancy and busyness, constant renewal, reclamation, demolition and construction, standing cheek to jowl.

Causeway Bay Lights| Hong Kong 2009 | Watercolour

I moved back to the UK in 1990 but returned to Hong Kong annually to exhibit and continue my forays into new Chinese locations for fresh material. Fresh places to visit sometimes prompted by an in-flight magazine or a new Lonely Planet Guide. I would occasionally, on a tip-off from people familiar with my painting, head off on a rekkie into China, armed with only an address jotted down on a coaster at a party! This, at a time when China was not the tourist destination it is today.

Breakfast at Dawn, Xitang | China | 2000 | Watercolour

In Hong Kong, I was seeing a Chinese culture that had been suppressed in the mainland, so that on my first trips to China, apart from a few patriotic red flowers, among the brick tiled and whitewashed buildings, the dominant colours were of Mao blue and earthy green suits. In bruised old buildings and way of life I was also glimpsing evidence of a Chinese history that was fast disappearing.

Zhouzhuang Backwater | China | 2000 | Watercolour

Hong Kong was in touch with the world in a contemporary way, being a thriving international commercial centre, which looked, in all its colour and life, “Chinese,” with its contrast of glitzy luxury and rough and ready street life. Red signage, concrete, marble, disposable furniture and the colour associated with the trappings of frequent celebrations.

Street Signs off Nathan Road | Hong Kong | 2006 | Watercolour

A part of Hong Kong’s identity, the masses of large calligraphic signs that once festooned, and lit up, the streets above shops, restaurants and nightclubs are disappearing. LED and electronic billboards are replacing the once ‘modern’ neon signs, now destined for museums as retro chic.

Neon Shadows, Nathan Road | Hong Kong | 2001 | Watercolour

Now, both in Hong Kong and in China, there is a determination to preserve the undeniable richness of their heritage and promote a coexistence of the old and new to be enjoyed now and for future generations.

Pak Tai Temple, Cheung Chau | Hong Kong | 1989 | Oil

The Star Ferry IS Hong Kong! For a few minutes a trip from Central to Kowloon provides respite from bustling street life. The sounds of clanking reversible seats, and the scrapping of the gang plank mingle in the mind with the cries of outraged residents over the relocation of the ferry piers!

Star Ferry Cruise | Hong Kong | 2006 | Watercolour