Under the Lion Rock

Under the Lion Rock

Hong Kong-born Canadian and trendsetter Cassian Lau talks to Jennifer Lo about his latest exhibition


Under the Lion Rock_L
Photo: Cassian Lau
Cassian Lau Kai-shun has decided it's time to return to his lifelong passion - painting. The founder of renowned fashion chain Sistyr Moon and the man who brought foreign brands like Hysteric Glamour and Dita to the city spent the last six months preparing for his solo exhibition Anybody Left Under the Lion Rock?

"The fashion business is part of my career, but that's not all I want. It's your duty to pursue what you think will make you happiest in life," says Cassian, 42.

The exhibition features 22 cartoon-like paintings inspired by his memories of the good old days in Hong Kong and his love of traditional Chinese values and culture. It begins with a giant 2-metre by 2-metre painting with text taken from the Chinese classics San Zhi Jing (Three Character Classic) as background to set the tone for the show.

"Hong Kong has bred so many brilliant minds that know how to generate wealth. But I worry our desires will erode our morality. Perhaps by reminding ourselves of our ancestors' teachings, we'll remember a heritage of piety ... we had long forgotten", he says.

Lau has mixed adorable cartoon characters with Chinese classics and tapped into the collective Hongkongers' collective memory by using familiar songs and television jingles as their backgrounds. Even though Lau moved to Canada when he was five, Chinese culture was and is still a big part of his life.

His Western education and fine arts degree from York University were set against a background of Old Master Q comics bought from Chinatown and the memories of dragon-beard candy. He also remembers the favourite TV show Enjoy Yourself Tonight that aired in the 60s and 70s. "Although I wasn't physically in Hong Kong, I was spiritually tied to the city," he says.

Lau believes his exhibition is an opportunity for the older generation to share their lives and experiences with their children.

"The Lion Rock is a collective memory belonging to most people as it symbolises the spirit of Hongkongers in the 60s - going through ups and downs together for a prosperous future. It's going to be a great starting point if kids will talk to their grannies about the old days of Hong Kong."

Lau says his father, who he describes as a "liberal but traditional man", taught him traditional Chinese virtues.

Lau hopes his exhibition will also bring a new dimension to this city's materialistic world. "I hope some day my paintings will motivate people to devote their time to something they enjoy, something other than money and material gains. Everything in the universe is made up of art, and that's what makes it beautiful."

The father of three uses the words of Confucius in the exhibition's last painting: "When the tree wishes for tranquility, the wind would not cease to blow. When the children wish to take care of their parents, their parents are gone."

This, he says, is a clear call to Hongkongers, "especially to the young generation, that we should really cherish those people who are truly precious in our lives".

Anybody Left Under the Lion Rock? is on display at Olympian City OC Gallery until November 1



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