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Evidence of Artistic Exchange

In ancient China, scholars gathered not only to socialise but also to share their literary and artistic accomplishments. They would write poems and prose, paint or do calligraphy. It was on occasions like these that many joint works in painting came about. They could be done by groups or pairs of artists that agree on a subject, and whatever they might be, as long as each artist could deliver his forte, the finished work would be a fine demonstration of the collaborators’ tacit understanding and comparable artistic skills.

Artists of the Lingnan School have always been close. Teachers and students, and often fellow artists, would make joint paintings as an expression of their common artistic lineage. One such example was the close relationship between Gao Qifeng (1889-1933) and his students. Gao taught in his Tianfeng Studio in Guangzhou in the 1920s, and many of his students became accomplished artists in their own right. After Gao’s death, these students held joint exhibitions of their works every year to commemorate their teacher.

Another impressive example was the joint exhibition of four artists of the second generation of the Lingnan School – Guan Shanyue (1912-2000), Chao Shao-an, Li Xiongcai (1910-2001) and Yang Shanshen – in the 1980s. The four had been working separately in Hong Kong or in Guangzhou for thirty years until they found a chance to meet up. At a gathering in Chao’s studio, an idea came up that they should create some joint paintings to celebrate their reunion. As transport was not efficient in those days, they relied on the help of Yang Qi, Chief Secretary of the Xinhua News Agency (Hong Kong Office) to circulate the unfinished works among the four artists. They finally completed approximately one hundred works which were exhibited in the University Museum and Art Gallery of the University of Hong Kong in 1983. The corpus of work is a fine demonstration of the artistic exchanges among the painters which went on to become a channel to consolidate the artistic style of the Lingnan School.


  • Joint painting by artists from To-days Chinese Art Association