The artist Au Ho-nien brings a modern sensibility to traditional Chinese ink-wash painting. He uses bold brushwork to convey a freedom of expression central to his philosophy: broad strokes capture sea spray, unfinished strokes suggest figures gathered in a bamboo grove, broken strokes evoke a rocky mountainside and fluid strokes render a galloping horse.
Au, now in his eighties and living in Taiwan, is a leading figure of the Lingnan school of painting, which originated in southern China in the late 19th century. It looked to Western realism and the practice of sketching from life as a way to revitalize Chinese art.
The Bold Brush of Au Ho-nien presents 22 vertical scroll paintings by Au, some created especially for this exhibition, that exemplify the Lingnan’s school’s fusion of Chinese and Western approaches.
“Painting conveys poetry, just as poetry embodies painting,” says Au, and his work often emphasizes poetic expression over precise physical description. The loose brushstrokes of his seascapes and mountain views incorporate an element of abstraction. Similarly, he draws attention to the temperament rather than the likeness of the figures in his paintings. Au’s paintings of animals – from mythical dragons ascending toward the heavens to a workaday buffalo in a rice paddy – rely on both naturalism and symbolism for their expressive force.