Venue: iPreciation (誰先覺), 50 Cuscaden Road, HPL House #01-01, Singapore 249724
Private Preview: May 8, 2021 (By Invitation Only)
Exhibition Opens to Public: May 10 – Jun 5, 2021
iPRECIATION pays tribute to Cheung Yee (b. 1936 – d. 2019), a master of our time through an exhibition titled The Art of Cheung Yee. The exhibition features captivating artworks produced between 1964 and 2008, showcasing Cheung’s multifaceted and distinctive styles. Touted as a trailblazer in Hong Kong’s contemporary art scene, the pioneer contemporary master is a familiar name to art scholars in the region and collectors globally. Best known for his monumental wood, metal relief and monumental General Series of crab-like sculptures, Cheung experimented with a variety of mediums throughout his career and has made fame for himself since the late 1950s.
Born in 1936 in Guangzhou, China, Cheung moved to and grew up in Hong Kong where his family was involved in the porcelain business, piquing his interest in handicrafts since young. He attended Tak Ming Middle School in Hong Kong where he studied traditional ink painting under renowned painter, Ding Yanyong 丁衍庸 (b. 1902 – d. 1978). Between 1954 and 1958, Cheung studied at Taiwan Normal University, majoring in traditional ink painting and seal carving. Though very skilled in gongbi and flower-and-bird paintings, studying rubbings of oracle bone writings for seal carving sparked his interest in tortoise shells, which was later a significant subject in his repository. He was intrigued with the tangible aspect of engraving presented, thereby started carving and sculpting.
Cheung returned to Hong Kong upon graduation in 1958, where he began to make waves in the art arena. Tapping on his fascination with ancient subjects and study of the biological nature world, Cheung created numerous wood and metal reliefs and sculptures that remind one of oracles or totems, and contain imageries that resemble snakes, worms, birds and the female body. By the mid-1960s, tortoise shells have taken the centre stage of his creation, where he applies ancient oracle bones and I-Ching with unique modernistic techniques and original visuals.
In the 1970s, he turned towards stone carving and created cast paper, a unique art form he called his own. Drawing inspiration from woodblock printing, instead of having a single mould, Cheung created moulds comprising of characters, pictograms, tortoise shells and symbols of the female genitalia. Being able to toy with the various combinations, Cheung’s cast paper reliefs are interestingly structured yet bursting with possibilities, which allows him to create his unique works, leaving viewers with ample imagination. In the 1980s, Cheung’s famous crab-like bronze sculptures, the General series became a hallmark of his artistic career, two of which are permanently installed in Hong Kong Kowloon Park and outside Hong Kong Museum of Art.
Between 1963 and 2003, Cheung was commissioned to create monumental public works for numerous institutions, including Hong Kong Hilton (1963), Philippine Bank of Commerce (Manila, 1969), Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corp. (Hong Kong, 1972), Hayashida Hotel, Kagoshima (Japan, 1973), Sheraton-Molokai Hotel (Hawaii, 1977), Gloucester Tower, Landmark (Hong Kong, 1979), where the artwork later moved to Citylink (Singapore, 1999), Lucky Stores Inc., Phoenix, Arizona (U.S.A., 1980), East Asia Bank (Hong Kong, 1983), Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, (Hong Kong, 1989), and Taipei 101 (Taiwan, 2003).
Highly recognised for his ground-breaking original creations, he was conferred The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Member class (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II of England in 1979 at the age of 43, joining one of the rare few in Hong Kong’s cultural industry to receive this honour.
Apart from being an artist, Cheung co-founded the Circle Art Group and was a member of the Society of Modern Literature and Fine Arts. He was also the chairman of the Hong Kong Sculptors’ Association, advisor to the Hong Kong Museum of Art as well as a professor of Fine Arts at the Chinese University of Hong Kong for 15 years where he taught and inspired many Hong Kong contemporary artists to date. Cheung later became the only Hong Kong artist to have been invited to hold three solo exhibitions in the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Upon retirement in 1998, Cheung moved to California where he continued to work on cast paper and wood sculptures. Between 2004 and 2007, Cheung created a series of wood sculptures and masterful cast paper works. Among them, 041208 Poem (2004, Cast Paper), 50803 Heart Moving (2005, Cast Paper), Fortune series (Cast Paper), Magic Square (2007, Wood Relief) and Twins (2007, Wood Sculpture) attest to his superb skills in not just cast paper but also in Chinese scripts and wood carving.
On Dec 4, 2019, Cheung Yee passed away in California, leaving a legacy behind that continues to inspire young artists and sculptors. His works are in the collection of many international public and private collections, including Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, National Museum of History (Taiwan), Museum of Modern Art (Mexico) and Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (England, UK).