Chung Shek

When viewing Shek’s art, one may recognise the graceful influence of some Old Masters of days gone by. His approach to composition and structure, and of light and shadow, echoes that seen in the work of David, Ingres and Bouguereau.

Indeed, the figurative tradition of 19th century painters had drawn their themes from Greek and Roman mythology, or from the Bible. Shek does neither. One of the main emphases of his work is on the human figure, as in centuries past, and how it expresses emotions ranging from joy and delight to a sense of sadness and loss, from curiosity to pensive contemplation. His painted figures, from a single figure to pairs and complex groups, are studies of expressions and sentiments as a recognition that the human form is capable of being posed in endless variations.

The poses of his dancers, seemingly simple, introduce complicated curves involving many parts of the body – hands, feet, arms, legs, hips, shoulders and torso. As such, his work not only captures the unique character and warmth of each subject, but transcends form to suggest the essence of the individual. They are uplifting partly because he can beautify and render the ballerinas convincingly while retaining their likeness. There is something very honest and authentic about these brief glimpses, in their moments of pause, seized from the unrelenting flow of time.

But Shek acknowledged early in his career the notion of developing a transferable style of painting which is not fixed, nor depends solely on one theme. His themes would share the same familiar appeal – believability – painted with the same careful oversight.

If such philosophy is ambitious in terms of his multifaceted approach to his art, it is not a radical change from his successful ballerinas. Instead it serves an equally important role in defining his painting objective. Maybe, instead of sensual dancers, the canvas could concentrate on glassware or tempting tasty treats. Maybe, instead of complex patterns formed by limbs and tutus and shoes, objects are comparatively simplified. Shek believes even simple, everyday items painted can be both joyful and engaging to all ages.