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The Unified Stroke
Calligraphy © Henry Lo Hon-yiu

Long fascinated by his late father’s traditional Chinese calligraphy, Hong Kong shufa artist Henry Lo Hon Yiu cultivated a keen interest in this art from an early age. Over recent years, he has ventured into new territory, developing a singular and fascinating technique, described elsewhere in this issue. The University of Hong Kong Museum and Art Gallery mounted a 2008 exhibit of his work, including a noted catalogue, The Unified Stroke, featuring 41 shufa. It may surprise some readers to learn that while he is an accomplished shufa artist, he is also a longtime practicing Hong Kong barrister. An alumnus of Hong Kong University in philosophy and political science, he is currently President of the HKU Arts Alumni Association.  During his student years and after, among his many honors, he served as President of the HKU Students’ Union, and from 1987-2002, as a member of the HKU Court.

香港書法家盧漢耀,自幼受父親熏陶,雅愛中華書法,尤其鍾情草書。近年來致力於新的藝術探索,逐漸形成自己別具一格的草書手法(詳見下文)。2008年底,香港大學美術博物館展出了盧氏41幀草書作品, 並出版作品集《方圓一脈——盧漢耀書法》。除了其卓有成就的藝術家身份,盧氏亦是一位香港執業大律師,畢業於香港大學哲學系和政治系,就學期間及畢業后曾榮任港大多項職位:1977年為香港大學學生會會長;1987至2002年間任香港大學校董;1993至2002年間任香港大學畢業生議會副主席。現為香港大學文學院校友會主席。

Henry Lo Hon-yiu and The Unified Stroke

Chinese calligraphy, or shufa, has been a traditional art form for millennia, practiced by beginners, amateurs, and masters. On the sidewalks and parks where Chinese gather at leisure, one can even see practitioners writing with water on concrete, their brushes not the usual maobi, literally “fur pen”, but sponge-tipped wands dipped into buckets or basins. The characters live briefly, then evaporate. Emperors and scholars alike were known for their skill with hand, brush, ink, and paper. Shufa is one of the arts in which the whole being participates—heart, mind, body, and soul. Through this medium the full presence of the artist, as well as his surround, become inescapably manifest. All he is and has been, and all that includes the present moment, may flow out through his strokes. In shufa, there’s no place to hide, no room to second guess, no refuge of revision. It remains an art of the immediate, nonetheless expressing the totality of the past.

Traditionally, the paper on which the artist writes is laid flat on a large table, unmoving, anchored by a stone weight at its top. Henry Lo Hon-yiu, however, suspends his paper vertically. In concert with the air, it speaks through its resistance, yielding when the brush presses, but also shoving back. As the fibers of the brush skate across, plunging, sweeping, or flicking lightly, a unique colloquy occurs, each strength in conversation with the other. No longer the relatively passive recipient of each stroke, the paper assumes a far more active role, the air itself gaining voice, implicating all it inhabits. Thus a respiration occurs between hand and space, action and reaction—a wavelength of being in which both artist and world utter their essences. What remains on the page is nothing less than the track of that dialogue—a tide, a living pulse. For all these reasons, the artist has rightfully named his practice “The Unified Stroke”. Its very unpredictability, and the purity of its form, create an atmosphere enticing the transcendent, and with it the sublime.