Hubert Burda Media

Matters of the Art: A Cultural Photoessay of Hong Kong

A series that captures the essence of traditional Chinese artistry – from calligraphy to opera.

He came to us with a vision in mind. Having worked with Until Chan since the early days of this magazine over a decade ago, we’ve learned to trust his preternatural visual and photographic instincts. Simply put, he wanted to shoot a series of portraits and corresponding videos, focusing on the young and the gifted – but with an illuminating theme in mind.

“I chose these three particular folks as I wanted to find young people who are deeply rooted in traditional Chinese culture and taking part in activities from a bygone era,” he says. “For most people today, including myself, most aspects of traditional Chinese artistry seem to be for the elderly, by the elderly. But I wanted to show contemporary artists whoare doing well and carrying the flag forward. I wanted to introduce readers to those who are still in their twenties and thirties, who have day jobs too, but haven’t forgotten their ethnic roots.”

Thus, we have Chinese calligraphy artist Packy Lai, Chinese-opera star Keith Lai and erhu instrumentalist ChanPik-sum captured on film and video.

Chinese opera artist Keith Lai
Chinese opera artist Keith Lai

“I wanted to show how they’ve been working hard and how they’re keeping fresh these old methodologies,” he says, having done his own research on the individuals in question for this endeavour. “All three of them started their art in childhood and maintained it into adulthood. They’ve loved their culture from a young age and work from the heart; they love their respective arts and they want to find a way to mix something new with the traditional.”

Chan spent days with the artists, chatting with them about themselves and how they could collaborate on this passion project.

Calligraphy artist Packy Lai wanted Chan to do the portraiture in her small studio in PMQ, while Chinese- opera artist Keith Lai opted for the vibrant backstage of an old-fashioned traditional Chinese theatre to let people know more about the step-by-step process of what happens behind the scenes.

Calligraphy artist Packy Lai

“Finally, with Chan Pik-sum, the erhu musician, we wanted to do it outside with some natural elements. The overall theme is chun chuan, which roughly translates to ‘inheritance’. As Hong Kongers, we’re constantly racing to what’s next, but let’s not forget what was.”

Erhu musicin Chan Pik-sum
Erhu musician Chan Pik-sum

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