Horsing around with calligraphy

Horsing around with calligraphy
Chinese Calligrapher and painter Liu Pau Kiang with the 10-metre long piece of the characters in caoshu, tian ma xing kong, above him at the exhibition hall.

At 80, Chinese calligrapher and painter Liu Pau Kiang still wields the brush to write and paint every day.

So it is no surprise to see more than 150 of his calligraphy works and paintings, all completed within the last two years, at his current solo exhibition at Ion Art Gallery.

The highlight of the show, staged for him by his students to mark his 80th birthday, is a 10m-long work, with four Chinese characters, tian ma xing kong (meaning the heavenly steed soaring across the sky), written in his unique caoshu, or cursive, script.

It is hung across the exhibition hall.

Below the scroll are eight pieces of his single-word calligraphy, each of the character "ma", or horse, written in eight different Chinese writing styles, from the earliest oracle-bone to the more recent kaishu, or regular, script.

"My students wanted me to do something different for my exhibition, which coincides with the Year of the Horse this year. So with their help, I wrote the massive piece on Jan 1 this year," says Liu, whose last solo exhibition was held in 2000, the Year of the Dragon.

About 70 of the works in the show are Chinese ink paintings in colour, all done with his unique pomo, or splash-ink style, a skill he developed more than 15 years ago.

His calligraphy works, with his distinctive style, have been presented to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and also as gifts by the Government to foreign dignitaries, as well as used in schools' names such as for Zhonghua Secondary School, where he retired as an art teacher three years ago, and Thomson Secondary.

The low-profile artist started writing with the brush when he was five in Chao'an county in Guangdong province, China, where he was born.

He moved to Singapore to join his parents here when he was 11, and studied at Catholic High and Chung Cheng High before leaving for Taiwan in 1959 for his tertiary education in Chinese language, literature and painting.

When he returned in 1963, he began a five- decade full-time teaching career, first at Chung Cheng for 17 years, before moving to Guangyang Secondary and then Zhonghua Secondary.

He also teaches the Chinese art of writing part-time at the Braddell Heights Community Club on weekend mornings and Monday nights, a job he has kept up with at the club for nearly 40 years.

One of his students, Ms Chew Siew Kheng, 48, who has been learning Chinese calligraphy at the community club for four years, says: "My teacher is very willing to share his knowledge and skills in Chinese calligraphy with us and I have learnt a lot from him."

For Liu, who is also an accomplished Chinese seal-carver, he will continue to create and teach.

He says: "It has been more than 70 years since I immersed myself in the practice of Chinese arts.

"I have no plans to pause, but to continue producing in the hope of achieving new breakthroughs."

This article was first published on Sep 30, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.