Chinese artist Wilson Shieh paints and draws in the gongbi, or fine-line, style of Ming dynasty painters of the seventeenth century, but his subject matter is humorously, stylishly, and politically contemporary. Ian Findlay wrote in Asian Art News in 2001, “There is a timeless quality to Shieh’s images that seems to spring from another age and it is one that he suggests is intentional. Yet, at the same time, he sees that he conforms to some extent with the tradition upon which he draws.”
Shieh was born in 1970 into a family of traders, the third generation of Hong Kong residents in his family. His hometown, Kennedy Town, is a melting pot of Chinese, Portugese, British, and South Asian cultures, and his work reflects that diversity. Shieh’s Swimmer, one of the prints he completed at Crown Point Press in 2005, is derived from the Four Swimmers Series he completed a year earlier in watercolor and gouache on dyed silk. The titles of the individual pieces, inscribed on the paintings themselves in English, Chinese, and Portugese, come from famous Brazilian bossa nova songs Shieh heard during his childhood. The songs, like his work, are characteristically both playful and unnerving. One finds oneself questioning, for example, his swimmer’s suggestive gesture—is it a wave of hello or a drowning man’s arm thrown up for help?
Shieh received his BFA in 1994 and his MFA in 2001, both from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His first solo exhibition was at the Hong Kong Arts Centre in 1998; in 2002 he began showing at Grotto Fine Art, Hong Kong. Since then, he has gained an international reputation. He won the Philippe Charriol Foundation Art Competition in painting in 1997 and the Prize of Excellence at the Hong Kong Art Biennial in 2003, the same year he was awarded an Asian Artists Fellowship by the Freeman Foundation through the Vermont Studio Center. His work is in the collections of many Hong Kong institutions, including the Museum of Art, the Heritage Museum, the Philippe Charriol Foundation, and the British Council, and in collections outside Hong Kong at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Oxford.
- Rachel Lyon