The life of a bitter melon

The title of an email that a friend sent me, "A brief update", is a fairly commonplace one. So I'll try to give it more spice by applying it to the following, which I would regard as "a brief update" Wu Guanzhong, a great contemporary Chinese artist, made on his own life:

"On a single-log bridge, a lone man, with his back towards us, headed for the unknown in the distance. Sixty years have gone past and he has returned to that same bridge, only aged and wounded. There he is, up on the bridge, this time facing the world."

I came to know Wu when I saw the painting below in an MTR station. It was an advertisement promoting his exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of Art. I was captivated by the bold and passionate brush stroke and the nice blend of Chinese and Western styles.

The exhibition is entitled "Lofty Integrity", probably as recognition to the 91-year-old artist's vow to 'rather break than bend'. He spoke the truth with his paintbrush, such as when he created the following oil painting called Bitter Melon Homestead. Wu likened himself, who spent most of his lifetime under the Chinese Communist regime, to a bitter melon. Notice the contrast between the white bitter melons and the dark background as well as the vines that entangle them and consider what that alludes to.

The following calligraphy is another interesting example. He expresses in an exaggerated way how the Chinese character "imprisonment" symbolises a man being trapped in a cell.

To see more of Wu's works, go to the exhibition, which is open until 4 July. Or follow this link, which has a good collection of his works in 2006.

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