When viewing Shek’s art, one may recognise the graceful influence of some Old Masters from 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 nineteenth century painters drew its 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 expression and sentiment as 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 true likeness. There is something very honest and authentic about these brief glimpses, in their moments of pause, seized from the unrelenting flow of time.
However, early in his career, Shek acknowledged the notion of developing a transferable style of painting which is not fixed, nor dependant solely on one theme. His themes would share the same familiar appeal – believability – lavishly painted with the same careful oversight.
By continuing to explore a new artistic direction, he has opened up a new artistic avenue. This offers him greater flexibility to use a wider colour palette and the freedom to evoke weight and texture more diversely. He can share with audience the intense pristine colours of sweets and candies; the antiquated glow of age-old books; the precise reflections on wrappings and cellophane that he sees through his eyes. In effect, this progressive chapter of his painting life places a greater emphasis on the visual rather than the narrative.
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, tutus and shoes, delicate objects are comparatively simplified. Shek believes even simple, everyday items, when painted, can be adorable, charming and engaging, and that continues to resonate with the spirit of his art.