Soho, The Connoisseur Art Gallery, and the Works of Zhang Da Zhong

Monday the 11th of November. This means that I have just two days left in Hong Kong. I had a plan for this day.

Looking up from Staunton Street

Looking up from Staunton Street

I’d spend the morning checking out the Soho neighborhood of a section of Hong Kong called Central.

Looking Down the Hill

Looking Down the Hill

I’d visit a specific art gallery on Hollywood Road – The Connoisseur Art Gallery.

Then I would head out to Shau Kei Wan via the MTR to catch the bus to Shek-O. Finally, a solo dinner in the Soho neighborhood.

I started about 10:30 AM. That way I would be sure that the Central Mid-Level Escalator was running up hill. These are serious and steep hills to negotiate. so I wanted any advantage I could get.

I was staying on Staunton Street which was the second escalator stop after Hollywood Road. Two levels up from Staunton, or maybe it was three, is Elgin Street. It is one of the0 oldest street in Hong Kong and is named after some British earl of long ago named Elgin. It is quite narrow – wide enough for parking on side of the street, and a drive through. The place is filled with exotic bars and restaurants. Since it was just about 10:35 in the morning – I was there to take a few pictures and look around. The picture above is from Wikipedia, and the one below, that follows, I took my self.

Elgin Street

Elgin Street

As you can see, the hill is imposing. Even standing on the escalator required you to pay attention. When I got back to Hollywood Road, I headed east toward the Connoisseur Art Gallery at G3, Chinachem Hollywood Centre, 1 Hollywood Road. I had been there before and had inquired about the paintings you see below:

Nostalgia,

Sense of Peach Blossom,

and Lotus Screen. I guess I was attracted to the beauty of the model, as well as the period dress from the Shanghai Era.

Women wearing the qipao in the Shanghai era

Women wearing the qipao in the Shanghai era

My inquiry brought forth a response, that these paintings were all in the 5 digit neighborhood, which was too rich and costly for me.

Some how I came away thinking that these works were done by Liu Yuanshou. But today, years later, I’m not so sure about that. No search of Liu Yuanshou gave me any indication that he was the painter. And I found no other information or images of these paintings.

Obviously I saw them online which is how I got to the Gallery in the first place. And just as obvious, is the fact that I made an inquiry because the paintings were on a gallery wall in front of me. But now, it was a no go. The gallery had neither an old catalog, nor any paintings on hand that were like these. So the mystery continues.

Rulers

But I did come away with something of value. I noticed a terrific painting by Zhang Da Zhong. In fact, the gallery had just opened a new show featuring his works on November 8th.

Red Guard Girl

The artist was born in 1953 and did not get into painting until later in life. Initially, he was a classic ‘starving artist’ as gallery after gallery turned him away, refusing to display his works. They stated that his works, which had a political subtext, were not popular in China.

Birth of a New Spring

The political context was that his works, paintings of the Red Guard girls, seemingly opposed the perspective of the Cultural Revolution of China. Under the teachings of Mao, women were encouraged to not be women, but to situate themselves as part of the homogeneous and androgynous worker masses.

Farmer Lady

Farmer Lady

Faceless, and free from personal attachments – the women who joined the Red Guards wore loose-fitting, colorless and drab military clothing that hid their figures. This was the era in which Da Zhong grew up.

Another Way

Another Way

He resented it from a close personal perspective because his own sister and her best friend were Red Guard Girls. So it is easy to understand that gallery owners were not jumping out of their shoes to display his art.

Battle Song

Battle Song

But that changed in 2000 when a Hong Kong Gallery showed some of his works and he won some awards. The appeal of his Red Guard Girls is undeniable. His works have an immediacy to them.

Freedom in the Greenery

Freedom in the Greenery

The models stand in natural surroundings and sunlight. These are beautiful women who are proud of their beauty and shapes. They are anything but androgynous and drab. Indeed, Zhang Da Zhong’s works make a powerful statement. No wonder, his works have been collected privately by art lovers world-wide.

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