Rainbow Tse provides a unique view of Hong Kong in her paintings

Rainbow Tse provides a unique view of Hong Kong in her paintings

Being named the top Visual Artist for Student of the Year is just the beginning for 17-year-old Rainbow Tse Lok-yau

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Rainbow Tse Lok-yau loves using water colours for night-time scenes.
Rainbow Tse Lok-yau loves using water colours for night-time scenes.
Photo: Edmund So/SCMP

Every inch of the double room in the Conrad hotel was covered with paintings. The place was set up as an exhibition space for the Art Central art fair. Big and small, framed works covered the walls, the beds and even the bathroom.

And in the middle of it all stood 17-year-old Rainbow Tse Lok-yau, smiling proudly, surrounded by her paintings as she talked about her art and her recent success as the winner of this year's Student of the Year Visual Artist award.

"I wasn't really expecting it," admits Rainbow, a student at Renaissance College. "I mean, all the other students were really good as well."

Being named the top Visual Artist for Student of the Year was no easy task. Rainbow faced tough competition as students from across Hong Kong put together portfolios showing their artwork and accomplishments. They then had to explain their work to a panel of judges in a rigorous interview process. And then came the final awards ceremony.

Nerves were running high as the contestants waited together. "We were all just like guessing who would get it," Rainbow remembers, because they only announced who was first, second and third once they were on stage. "So the moment we got on stage was very nerve-wracking."

And just a few short weeks later, Rainbow found herself in the middle of one of Hong Kong's busiest art fairs with her own exhibition. Showing off some of her newer works, Rainbow feels that she's found her own personal style and voice as an artist.

"I like to focus on the light source, so it shows more of a mood and atmosphere to it," she says, pointing to a painting of a watery street scene in Hong Kong, set at night and lit by streetlights and neon signs. "And that's my style. I think there aren't enough landscape artists that do night-time scenes in watercolour, mainly because it's very dark and it's hard to add the colour. But I like doing that. I think it creates a very different effect from what you get in oil paintings or other types of media."

To achieve her signature flowing style, Rainbow uses a technique with her watercolours called "wet-on-wet", where she paints quickly on top of existing layers before the paint has a chance to dry. "It creates a very flowing, unexpected effect," she explains.

Rainbow says she was heavily influenced by the Impressionist movement and how the artists dealt with light in natural settings. She started to experiment with her own landscapes, and as she says: "that is what I've been doing ever since."

And her style is catching people's attention. As well as winning Student of the Year Visual Artist and her Art Central exhibition, she also had a solo exhibition at Wan Fung Art Gallery last year, and has another at Harbour City scheduled for next month.

For a young artist, holding your own in such a competitive industry is tough. But Rainbow says she's seen a lot of support for creative students.

"I think [Hong Kong's art scene] is developing and it's getting better and better," she says. "Because you see a lot more art programmes, even like this one - the Student of the Year. They promote artists."

But being a teenager in a professional field still has its hurdles. "If you have the technique, [people] can be like 'Wow, you can do this!' But there might be others that say 'Oh, you're young, you don't have enough experience, are you good enough?'" says Rainbow. "There are two sides of it, and I guess that's part of the challenge as well."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
On the other side of the rainbow

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