From mainland to Hong Kong: Ink and wash painter’s pursuit of art

When Lin Tianxing first went to Hong Kong in 1984, he was only in his 20s, and had been told that “Hong Kong is heaven where he should pursue his art life.”
Yet, he said life wasn’t that easy at the beginning and he had to live in a sharing rented apartment where one bed, one table and a desk were all he had.
“There were about seven or eight pots piling in the kitchen, and tenants had to take turns to cook,” Lin said, adding that he didn’t expect daily necessities in Hong Kong to be a problem at that time, but the hardest part was always nostalgia.
Growing up in south China’s Fujian province, Lin fell in love with painting at the age of 12 and apprenticed under several teachers from whom he had learnt both Eastern and Western painting skills.
To get integrated into Hong Kong society and to know more about the city, Lin said he used to walk from Sham Shui Po in Kowloon Peninsula to Nathan Road, and from the west ring of Hong Kong to Shau Kei Wan. There were also more bookshops in Hong Kong than in the mainland at that time, and reading various books there also helped to relieve his nostalgia, Lin said.
In order to make a living while pursuing his art dream, Lin began to draw commercial paintings on the one hand and do his own art on the other.
Although the art market was quite small at that time in Hong Kong, Lin said he still tried to sell his own ink and water paintings. He remembers that he sold his first painting to a bank manager at the price of 2,000 Hong Kong dollars, while the similar one in a factory was only 50.
While Lin’s name gradually got known to more people in Hong Kong later, he began to think about continuing his further study on art in mainland, feeling that there was little that he can learn in Hong Kong.
“The study in Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing had a huge impact on my life,” Lin said, adding that artistic ideas and techniques used by the Chinese mainland artists were undergoing a change at that time, and art language was also getting more diversified in late 1980s.
“I really admired them at that time, and I didn’t want to miss that opportunity to improve myself,” he said.
In 1990, with the help of the then director of Chinese painting study association, Lin held his solo exhibition in Beijing. The exhibition was a successful one for Lin, as many famous artists in Beijing dropped by and also captured the attention of media. “Being successful in Beijing meant being successful in the whole of China,” Lin said.
Following that, Lin went back to Hong Kong in 1991, and present his new works to the public, which, however, was not well accepted. While many people questioned whether Lin lagged behind, he thought it was probably the Hong Kong art circle that didn’t make any improvements over the years.
After some efforts such as making his own painting albums and holding individual exhibitions again with some new works, he gradually won the recognition from the Hong Kong art circle.
One of Lin’s most well-known works is his lotus series, which has appreciated from 3,000 Hong Kong dollars in the late 1990s to tens of thousands now. But Lin said what is most important for him is not money. Instead, he said he is dedicated to create his own art characteristics.
“I don’t want all people to love my work,” said Lin who is now the president of Hong Kong International Exchange of Artist & Culture Association.
Thanks to Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, there have been more artists in Hong Kong, and more communication between artists from the mainland and Hong Kong.
“I’m excited about Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, because many people also realized how culture is important to them,” he said. “It is quite important for one person to love his or her own culture, because otherwise they do not have their own culture.”

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