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Huang Xinbo (1916-1980) is an influential print artist of the twentieth century. From a historical perspective, he is also one of the central figures in the cultural lineage between the mainland and Hong Kong. In the early 1930s, Lu Xun (1881-1936) introduced to China the woodcut of Europe, with subjects mainly on war, revolution and society. This medium facilitated the extensive dissemination of anti-Japanese War propaganda during China’s dark years of conflict. The practice of highlighting political and social strife by means of this art form was brought to Hong Kong in the late 1930s by artists arriving from the mainland. Among the first wave of arrivals in the post-war period, Huang stimulated the continued development and popularity of print art by co-founding Human Art Club (Renjian huahui), establishing the Human Publishing House (Renjian shuwu) and organising exhibitions and other events. His efforts further extended this art practice; and made it take root in Hong Kong through a distinctly individual idiom and style epitomising the social conditions of his time. Huang’s works always demonstrate a deep humanistic concern towards renjian, the “worldly life” or literally, “the human’s world”, and reflect his impressions and feelings of humankind. His subjects – often figures – allow the viewer to empathise in their tribulations, struggles and hopes. They also suggest a deeper connotation of Huang’s reaction to, and reflection of societal changes in different stages of his life. Although he himself had his fair share of trials in life due to political upheavals, wars and the Cultural Revolution, he never gave up hope and was eager to transmit messages of optimism and strength to his audience. After all, renjian is where his heart belonged to, and always has been.

This exhibition “Imprint of the Heart: Artistic Journey of Huang Xinbo” presented by Hong Kong Heritage Museum provides an overview of the artistic journey of Huang Xinbo, which lasted for almost half a century. It covers mainly his print art, which he might have viewed as his forte. The showcase of his oil paintings also demonstrates Huang’s multifaceted artistic endeavours. Thanks to the generous support of Huang’s family, many of his manuscripts, poems, articles and photographs are also on exhibition this time. Apart from enriching the display, they form an excellent archive of print art in China before World War II, and its development in post-war Hong Kong. In this exhibition, Huang’s artistic career is sectioned into several stages chronologically and under different themes. Upon this structure, the idea of renjian is employed, referring to the art club and publishing house established by Huang; and at the same time, connoting his artistic approaches. As an ancillary programme to the exhibition, the Hong Kong Heritage Museum has invited students in secondary schools and tertiary institutes to produce prints in dialogue with Huang. It is conceived as a modern cognisance of Huang’s art, and a continuation of his vision of social awareness and humanist concerns across time and space, and against different cultural and historical backgrounds. Offering a vivid account of Huang’s artistic legacy, the exhibition hopes to contribute to the understanding of the works and creative ideologies of this pioneer of the modern Chinese woodcut.

We are also indebted to Prof. Huang Yuan, the daughter of Huang Xinbo, who has been tireless in collating background information for this exhibition and giving us her valuable advice, as well as writing interesting anecdotes on some of the exhibits. Visitors to the exhibition will have the privilege of seeing a previously little-known side of the artist, her father. We are also grateful for her very generous donation to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum of Huang Xinbo’s some exclusive original prints from different periods, assorted books and articles. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Prof. Huang Yuan for her contribution and generosity.

Cheng Woon-tong
Curator (Art)
Hong Kong Heritage Museum