A moving art experience

A moving art experience

Students use Ming and Qing dynasty art to tell an animated love story

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Karina Chan (left) and Elva Lau show off their e-book.
Karina Chan (left) and Elva Lau show off their e-book.
Photo: Thomas Yau/SCMP
Ancient Chinese paintings are coming to life in an innovative exhibition jointly produced by the Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI) and the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

Designed to appeal to young people, the collaboration contrasts old art forms with modern technology. Nineteen HKDI Communication Design & Digital Media students collectively produced an electronic book and an animated film featuring 24 Ming and Qing dynasty paintings from the Xubaizhai Collection of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy at the Museum of Art.

Student Karina Chan Chun-yan, who helped create the e-book, thinks its interactive element makes it easier to enjoy the great paintings.

"We decided on the idea of the e-book because we wanted to create something light-hearted for all ages that would be easy for readers to download once the exhibition was over," she says.

Instead of using complex words, the book features two animated child characters who serve as tour guides to the world of paintings.

"Wen Boren's Fifteen Views of the Garden was chosen as the background," says Chan. "Scrolls show varied scenes such as sunsets, rain and night views. Viewers are able to follow the two characters into the ancient garden in Wen's painting."

Apart from the e-book, the students have also created a six-minute animated film from the paintings from the Xubaizhai collection.

"We decided to produce an animated film as we thought it would be more memorable to the young generation," says Elva Lau Tsz-yan, who is in charge of the animation.

The story is based on the theme of time travel: a girl from the present day has accidentally travelled back to the Ming dynasty, where she falls in love. The animated film is based on a real love story from the period of the paintings. The animation has no dialogue, and instead makes use of music and sound effects to express the atmosphere of the paintings and their stories.

Both students admit that they had little knowledge of Chinese paintings before they attended HKDI. Karina says that she wrongly thought Chinese paintings were boring, and saw Western paintings as more detailed. However, she later came to understand that Chinese paintings depicted scenes very realistically.

Lau says that she preferred vivid colours, and thought that Chinese paintings were dull and grey. But, after studying them, she has learned to appreciate the different brush strokes and styles.

"Every line on the painting is so fine and delicate," she says. She also admires the artists' ability to depict landscapes with the tiniest details.

All the students who took part in the project did so voluntarily. While they created the stories and worked on the technical aspects, the Museum of Art supplied them with images of the paintings. They had progress meetings with experts from the museum several times a month. The students often accepted ideas put forward by the museum.

The animation, e-book and artworks will be on display at the exhibition, A Journey into Chinese Painting: A Selection of Works from the Xubaizhai Collection, from now until the end of the year, at the Museum of Art.

IPads are available at the museum to view the project. Also, a mobile app for this exhibition will soon be available to download.


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