The Hare and the Tortoise
By Michael Nock, Founder and Chairman of NockArt Gallery
Something special happened when Lis Cummings and Luke Sciberras came to Hong Kong in February 2015 as part of the second Nock Art Foundation residency program. Soon after they nestled comfortably into their Wanchai apartment they began a process of creative exploration and artistic output that resulted in an extraordinary series of paintings that we have the honor ofpresenting in this exhabition at the Nock Art Gallery. The paintings give fresh insight and a new perspective into Hong Kong and its surroundings. A Hong Kong not seen before but perhaps never seen again without some sense of the artists vision affecting how we look at the city in the future.
Their first few days in the city incorporated sightseeing and visits to the streets and rooftops of Wanchai, Causeway Bay, Central and the South Side of Hong Kong whereboth artists sketched and painted “en plein air”. Lis had visited the city before and had some initial ideas which she developed and worked up into new visions as we explored the city, while for Luke, who had recently completed a residency in a remote part of China, it was his first visit to the city and his enthusiasm and excitement incorporating the sights and energy of the city into his work was infectious.
Lis responded to the early evening traffic jams of Hennessy Rd., the rivers of headlights and the neon lights, the interplay of harbour and humanity seen from up high, the view of Aberdeen harbour from my apartment roof top, while Luke wanted to get down and dirty, close to the back alleys, highways, restaurant windows and shop fronts at street level. One looking down the other up.
Working side by side in my studio in Wong Chuk Hang their camaraderie and respect for each other made for a special working relationship that saw humor entwined with the serious process of art making.
Lis had once mentored Luke when the artists both lived in an artist community just out side Sydney called Wedderburn. This is a place where Lis still finds inspiration working in her “bush” studio. Much of Luke’s time is now spent further west in another unique community in Hill End, an old mining town west of the blue mountains that over the years has been appropriated by artists.
Soon after their arrival we toyed with the idea of calling the show “the hare and the tortoise” as the “hare” attacked the large boards with gestural swipes and high energy scrapings dressed in his paint splattered workers overalls. These extraordinary explosions of activity were followed by an exhausted Luke finding refuge in the studio’s mechanical massage chair. At the same time the “tortoise” quietly donned her apron and set to work on the under painting and exploration of a series of different sized stretched canvases. Both artists preferred oil paint.
As in the story, over the course of 2 weeks both the “hare” and the “tortoise” kept pace with each other, occasionally urging the other on, occasionally offering advice and critique, and all the time maintaining a playful revelry and co-operation.
On several occasions Lis and Luke visited “Flying Goose Hill”, or “Fei Ngo Shan” as it is known locally where she found dynamic vistas of the city that she translated into larger works back home. For Luke it was the “geese” and“ducks” in the restaurant windows that were his inspiration.
The works are quite different, different to each other and interestingly different from what we might expect looking at earlier works by each of the artists. Both artists have a deep affinity for the landscape, and in particular the Australian landscape with its browns, ochres, yellows and reds. The challenge for both artists was how to adapt to the different environment. Their palettes had to change and the shapes and forms of an urban metropolis demanded an approach that was outside their normal comfort zone. As experienced and accomplished artists they not only rose to the challenge but created a series of works that captured the essence of Hong Kong resulting in the paintings we proudly present to you in this exhibition.