Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Blending east and west in modern Macau

Posted by Kimberly on September 8, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
September 8, 2007, page 18 (1,038 words)

The first thing you realise about artist Lam Kin Ian is that he doesn’t look anything like one. But take one glance around the Centre of Creative Industries that’s currently housing his latest exhibition and you begin to realise just how much artistic talent this Shanghainese-born, Macau resident has to offer.
And he isn’t happy with just one particular style of artistic expression. Within the twenty paintings on offer one can see a range of techniques, both oriental (Haipai art) and western, using watercolour with acrylic on canvas. It’s the broad possibilities that sometimes vexes the artist whose goal it is to “really complete a painting.”
“For me the target I want to achieve is that every time I start a creation I want to complete it and be satisfied it is done,” says the 50-something-year-old.
“So I put all my effort into finishing and creating a perfect picture.
“I think the creation of the art side is endless because even though I finish one piece of work I don’t really think its finished because I’m always in the process of exploring something new.
“I think my target is very difficult to achieve!” he adds.
Titled ‘True Expressions’, his current exhibition, he says, is about his daily life. It reflects what he sees on a daily basis, what he hears and feels.
“This is the expression of all that. I am from Shanghai but during my paintings sessions I would mix up elements from Shanghai and Macau,” he says.
He adds that Macau offers him plenty of inspiration, that despite its small size, its the blending of western and eastern styles that give it a sense of uniqueness he uses in his artwork.
“What I wanted to see before in Shanghai I wouldn’t see but I can in Macau,” he adds.
Having lived in Macau since 1983, Kin Ian is far from a novice when it comes to exhibiting his work, having done so at the request of the government on several occasions.
And to add to that distinction, the artist has also been acknowledged for his talent through the production of two books by the Macau Cultural Bureau.
The first, ‘harmony of water and colour: paintings of Lam Kin Ian’ is entirely on his artwork while the latter, ‘Sentiment on Lilau: Works by Macao Artists’ also includes other local artists such as Konstantin Bessmertny.
Having begun painting at the tender age of nine, Kin Ian says he did so mainly because of his father’s influence. A successful painter himself, his father encouraged the young Kin Ian to learn from him.
“I loved it and so tried to learn properly. I also have a cousin who is known as “the king of the watercolour’ so I learnt my watercolour skills from him,” he adds.
He has also studied the theory at the College of Fine Arts in Shanghai University, but felt it to be limiting.
“They only offered me theory, the foundation of art,” he says.
“During my studies they wouldn’t give me any practical skill improvement but I got all the knowledge and feedback after I finished university and began my own creations,” he adds.
Asked to describe his current style, he says its “a blend of Eastern and Western cultures” adding that as well as the previously stated acrylic and watercolour, he also uses home materials such as buttons.
His style, he admits, is constantly evolving, sometimes to the point of changing several times in one year.
He became very coy when asked his opinion of other local artists, refusing to be put on the spot. Nevertheless, he was quick to point out that he admires one particular Mainland artist living in the south, who goes by the name ‘Stone Tiger’.
“He’s very famous who spends most of his time in Zhuhai, China. Now most of his paintings are in other countries rather than Macau,” he adds.
Asked what it is about his own style that makes him stand out from the myriad of other local artists, he says, “The artists in Macau basically have two styles. One is drawing exactly what they see and the other is an abstract style of painting.
“For me, I’m not only good at those two styles, I can also paint in between the two styles. That’s why I stand out,” he says.
One would be astounded to discover that his paintings only tend to take him an average of two hours to complete, for the most part. Yes, most are of a medium size but the two that took the longest to paint were done so within only ten days.
But for Kin Ian, it’s difficult to say that such a short period would be the norm, because “it depends on my mood and feeling.
“First I come up with an idea or a concept and once I have this, I start my work.
“It may take a long time to complete a work because during the process of creating my work I may change something and suddenly the concept will change as well,” he adds.
The two Shanghai watercolour scenes that took him the longest also happen to be his best pieces.
“Some people wanted to buy those two but I refused to sell them because they’re my favourite,” he says.
Others though, have been acquired by the Civil and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM) and the Fuchunjiang academy of Calligraphy and Painting.
Those particular Shanghai paintings were unusual in not only their depiction of some of Shanghai’s historical spots but also in the method used to re-create them.
“At first I started to paint it there but I then took a picture and made some changes at home,” he says.
“For example where there were any high buildings in the background I removed them. Also in this picture the young lady was originally an old woman so I changed it,” he adds.
His last solo exhibition was done in 2004, organised by the IACM although he has been a part of several major group exhibitions including a charity exhibition for Timor and as part of a commemoration of Macau’s return to Chinese sovereignty.
His current exhibition will run at Creative Macau until the end of the month.

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