The first Fine Art Painting class at SCAD Hong Kong drew a rich array of talent and the best among them was awarded the Inaugural Quintessentially Asia Magazine Art Prize although as Daniel Jeffreys reports the field of contestants included several artists who may soon be winning a much wider audience.

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SuaHan_A-Thinking-Person

Sua Han’s A Thinking Person

CAD Hong Kong bills itself as the University of Creative Careers and at midday on a beautiful Sunday morning in Hong Kong it’s easy to see why. The graceful space that is the Galerie Perrotin on Connaught Road was awash with indirect sunlight, creating a perfect stage for a group of young artists who had spent the summer as members of the schools inaugural fine painting course, led by SCAD professor Carl Johnson and the wickedly talented Korean-American artist Jin Meyerson.

“The definition of what art is and what artists do is in constant evolution,” says Meyerson, who schooled the painters in technique and conception.

“Art changes from location to location. I think each landscape creates its own music. For young artists it doesn’t matter where you are from. It doesn’t matter what you want to do. As long as it’s done with passion, and commitment.”

Here are some names to note – Blessy Man, Cherry Ng, Jason Tse, Jenny Ling, Katrina Teh, Morgan Clement, Novita Permatasaro, Vivan Chu, Wai Pong, Wendy Wong and Sua Han. These are the young artists who took the SCAD course and assembled for the FIRST TAKE show at the gallery in November. You will be seeing some of these names again, mark my words.

From Cheryl Ng’s expressionist piece Snow to Jason Tse visceral Self Portrait and from Jenny Ling’s surreal Bubble Gum Triptych to Katrina Teh’s haunting exploration of grief in Wander, here was work that displayed profound insights and a gripping sense of narrative.

For Meryerson what impressed him most was the speed with which the students acquired high-grade techniques and the courage they displayed in searching for an authentic inner voice to make their pieces sing.

“I think that is the first task of the artist, for your voice to be heard,”

he says. “That doesn’t always mean commercial success, but it’s the responsibility of every artist to keep “speaking”. I am very privileged to have an audience, but that wasn’t always the case. Just because the audience wasn’t there doesn’t mean you can put down your brush.”

Quintessentially Asia magazine participated in the FIRST TAKE show as the sponsor of the Inaugural SCAD/Quintessentially Asia Magazine Fine Art Prize and I judged the show with guidance from Meyerson and Johnson. We all agreed that the “best in show” was Sua Han, a young artist from Korea who displayed exceptional technique, inspiring ideas and a passion for expression that is rare even among the most accomplished professional artists. Hua started out at SCAD as an illustrator.

“I like painting more because I always have a purpose when I paint,” she says. “Sometimes painting is like singing, you walk around and you feel like you are happy, or sad and you feel like singing a song. In painting you are able to express yourself more freely.”

Hua won the Quintessentially Painting Prize for two canvasses titled Thinking Person A and Thinking Person B. She approached her work by first laying a surface of oil paint in a variety of colours. She would then use knives and brushes to sculpt the images within the paint.

“I react to colour,” she says. “I like being in the present instead of pursuing a goal so the outcomes in my work are often a happy accident. So first I make abstract paint and this becomes my problem that I need to solve. I look at the paint, and stare and stare, to see stuff, figurative stuff, that’s how I begin making my figures.”

Hua says the original blocks of the paint are like chaos to her.

“I always feel chaos inside me, so it has to get out,”

she says. “It’s very stressful, and stuck in my mind, so I instead of letting it stay there I find an expression for it on the canvass.”

Hua not only paints like a true artist but talks like one too. Despite her confidence she has struggled with her identity in Hong Kong, as she did when she was in the US, and these anxieties have found their way into her work. Finding a way to turn difficulties into a form of expression has made her feel grateful for discovering her talent.

“If a person goes deep into his/herself, it’s going to be unique and creative,” she says. “I consider everything I have created so far as a form of self-portrait.  I don’t mind being categorized as an expressionist or an abstract painter. I don’t care. I care about the fact that I like painting.  Right now, I’m just trying to be honest to myself. And then when I’m done with my feelings I can create something. I don’t plan because I know things never go the way I plan. I like failures because I know it’s part of success.”

And success seems probable for Hua, for she is that rare creature, an artist with a deep well of talent and a well-honed set of conceptual tools to explore philosophical issues that are at the core of all great art. Meyerson is proud of what Hua has achieved but also advises her to be cautious.

She has a bright future in front of her,” he says. “But there will be grey moments that sometimes stretch into grey days. My sense of accomplishment comes not the moment when a piece is sold but from the moment when a piece is finished.”

And that is the only solace an artist can expect if they are true to art for art’s sake.

CherylNg's Snow

Cheryl Ng’s Snow

More stories like this are available in Quintessentially Asia