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17 Apr 2013 - 23 Jun 2013

The University Museum and Art Gallery is delighted and hugely honoured to be able to present this exhibition of calligraphy, paintings and books (written and collected) by sinologist and artist Jao Tsung-i.  Professor Jao has been affiliated with The University of Hong Kong as a scholar, poet and painter since the early 1950s, and the Petite Ecole established in his name and the University Museum have repeatedly organised public displays of his internationally-renowned and celebrated artworks.

When the Jao Tsung-I Petite Ecole of the University of Hong Kong was established in 2003, Professor Jao Tsung-i contributed two sets of donations, which can be regarded as the major portion of this academic institute. These contributions consist of over 30,000 books by Professor Jao, which include hundreds of wood board printed editions of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The other part of the contribution comprises his calligraphy, paintings and studio objects.

For the exhibition, Professor Jao selected his most representative works from those he created in the past decades. These artworks not only symbolize Professor Jao’s artistic development and achievements, but exemplify the scholar artist’s accomplishments in calligraphy and painting. This “Amalgamation of Scholarship and Art - Selected Artworks of Jao Tsung-I Petite Ecole's Collection” gives testimony not only to the wealth of talent and accomplishments that mark the outstanding career of Professor Jao, but also to his unparalleled generosity towards Hong Kong University and the rich donation he bestowed upon us.  Both his literary and visual works are characteristic of the scholar’s intellectual interests, research and knowledge of Chinese classics and the history of art and literature, and his ease and versatility to adopt traditional values.

Beautifully executed masterpieces in their own right, Professor Jao’s ink and water colour paintings represent a repertoire of techniques that testifies to the artist’s adaptation of styles—both thematic and practical—that allude to different schools primarily during the Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties, but also of the earlier Han and later Qing dynasties, and his interest in Zen paintings.  Equally, the iconographic variety includes figures from Dunhuang frescos, as well as traditional landscapes and symbolic animals and flowers, such as his “Landscapes of the Four Seasons”, “Two Fish” and “Red Lotus”, which evoke the learned philosophies ever-present in the works of the scholarly artist.

Professor Jao reveals his ability to innovate in the process of his art creation. Now in his 90s, he still makes strenuous efforts to develop new directions in the realms of calligraphy and painting. Neither being limited by the regulations of painting and calligraphy nor by the boundary between Chinese and Western painting, Professor Jao consummately wields calligraphy and painting instruments and techniques, which are presented through his ancient character calligraphy, forceful running-cursive script calligraphy, Northwestern School landscape painting style, pioneering Dunhuang sketch technique, and tremendous momentum in lotus paintings.

Professor Jao’s literary works include poems and calligraphic couplets reminiscent of his studies of Chinese art and literature, and they undoubtedly found their own significant place in Chinese art history.  The artist transcribes—both verbally and in stylistic manner—the texts of celebrated writers, highlighting not just their historical significance, but their continuous importance in our era.  Jao Tsung-I’s oeuvre demonstrates his advocacy of Chinese history, art and culture, and we are deeply indebted for his generosity to share with us the ongoing educational value and inherent beauty of his scholarship and art. He is unquestionably playing an important role in contemporary art history.

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