In a tribute to the world’s cultural wealth, diversity, co-existence and resilience, dating from the dawn of civilisation in China, my native land, 5,000 years ago, I have created a commemorative scroll, 1.5 metres high and 201.5 metres long.
The scroll, whether hung, held in hand or stretched horizontally, is the quintessential art form of China which lends itself most appropriately to artistic expression on such an ambitious scale.
On this gigantic scroll, executed on specially made English art paper, I have painted a fluid and continuing vast image, representing 5,339 carp, combining the universal symbol of life – water – with the East Asian icon of good fortune.
Culture 5000 follows on from my Hong Kong Fish Scroll, which was exhibited in London in the days prior to the return of Hong Kong to China, televised internationally*1 and written about in the media*2 and in a book on my work published in 1997*3. That scroll featured 1,997 carp, marking the year of Hong Kong’s reunion with China.
I have chosen the title Culture 5000 because the last five millennia of human existence have been the most remarkable in cultural and social development, fusion of peoples, races and languages. Europe, for example, has never before in its history experienced the richness of cultural interaction as it is experiencing today. Culture 5000, therefore, is a tribute to this human experience, a part and parcel of mutually rewarding peaceful co-existence, irrespective of geographical boundaries.
The scroll was designed to embody this concept and demonstrate my skills in water colour painting, which represent a synthesis of artistic practices developed by me over four decades. Now completed, the scroll is an extraordinary work of art, indeed the first of its kind ever executed in the history of art practice.
As those familiar with my work will know I have enjoyed painting both in realistic and abstract styles. The giant painting represents 5,339 carp in vivid colours and in a multitude of movements and “moods” – in a wide range of underwater settings, with the “concrete” imagery of the fish interwoven with “abstract” background.
The painting has been executed with a diffused focus, and from a vertical perspective allows the viewer the opportunity to enjoy the giant image in many different ways. This is essential to the ultimate purpose of the project – to divide up the painting amongst the most eminent collections of art worldwide.
The Culture 5000 scroll has the following features:
- The size – 1.5m x 201.5m – is the largest painting of its kind executed anywhere in the world.
- The vast number – 5,339 colourful carp in a single painting – is the first ever in the world’s history of art.
- The enormous variety of colours and patterns which do not repeat themselves in one painting of this scale has never before been seen in the history of fine arts, embodying a new development of water colour techniques.
- The gigantic painting will link the world’s major museums in one chain, a pioneering undertaking in the world of fine arts.
- The whole painting maintains its integrity with no traces whatsoever of being painted in sections.
- Each part destined for segmentation is self-contained in both image and form.
- The completion time of 8 months for a painting of this size is the shortest ever – dignitaries were present to witness the commencing and concluding ceremonies.
*1- Numerous British and Chinese television broadcasts.
*2 – Eastern Art Report, South, Grimsby Evening Telegraph and other media.
*3 – Hai Shuet Yeung: Innovation In Abstraction, by Sajid Rizvi with contributions by Dr. Anne Farrer, British Museum, and Professor Li Gongmin, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, Guanghou, China, published by Saffron Books, P.O. Box 13666, London, SW14 8WF, UK.