Prof. Kurt CHAN 陳育強教授

OVERVIEW
概述

Acting Director
Hong Kong Art School
XX Chief Curator
香港藝術學院署理院長
XX 總策展人

I still remember the excitement I felt for Hong Kong’s tertiary art education sector when I learned that a new Art School was established under Hong Kong Arts Centre around the year 2000; I believed the School would bring a fresh look to the industry. Just a few years later, the first graduate exhibition was held, and friends from the industry were all surprised by the outstanding and professional performance of the graduating students of the School. At that time, I was still working for the Department of Fine Arts of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). I found it utterly amazing that a self-financing art school was running successfully in Hong Kong, and I was happy to see its success. After all, it had been nearly half a century since the Department of Fine Arts was founded by the New Asia College of the CUHK in the 1950s. We were indeed a bit behind in terms of building up new art schools, especially when comparing with neighbouring regions.

The time when the Hong Kong Art School (HKAS) was founded, it was also the time when the development of the local art scene took a big leap forward: emergence of the creative industry, establishment of art museums, development of the Academy of Visual Arts of the Hong Kong Baptist University, opening of foreign galleries, flourishing of local NGOs, and so on. Hong Kong is still in the ascendant as the centre of art exhibitions and artwork trading in Asia. At the same time, the challenges HKAS is facing become more and more severe... If we don’t have our own vitality and belief, it would be quite difficult for our School, a self-financing institution, to survive in such a competitive environment.

I have joined the School for merely two and a half years. It still amazes me whenever I visit the students’ exhibitions. With the existing resources, how do the students make artworks reaching this high level? What should the School, as an incubator for new artists, do in order to bring out the potentials of the students, encouraging them to keep on thriving in the future? Here are the features of the School in my observations:

Students’ background: Secondary school leavers who have seen little of the world but are with huge enthusiasm for art, and working adults who possess knowledge and talents in other fields; each group takes up about half of the total number of students. Such a combination is not commonly seen in Hong Kong. When those who are merely 20 years old or less meet with the degree holders who have already been reaching 30 or 40 years of age – the collision between those with mature social experience and those with passion for new knowledge, can be the spur and encouragement for each other.

Close connection between the School and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University). The art and design programmes offered by the RMIT University rank high in the world. The syllabus closely keeps up with the contemporary ideas and operations of art education and the exchange of knowledge, allowing the deepening and interaction of different art professions. As far as I am aware of, programmes with such features are rarely available in Hong Kong.

The programme diversity of the Hong Kong Arts Centre and its self-financing operation mode also act as factors prompting the School to keep pace with social changes and to respond swiftly. From the School’s perspective, there are no other institutes in Hong Kong that have the back of such a strong and diversified programme operation team. The interaction and support between the School and the Hong Kong Arts Centre can create more than what we can expect from other colleges and universities.

Throughout these 20 years, HKAS has experienced various phases of development; changes were necessary to cater for social needs. Despite the stress and difficulties, the School has continued to thrive because of the strong belief and the flexibility of its staff members and that cannot be concluded by just a single sentence or two. Generally speaking, it is about passion, independence, diversity, adaptation and balance, amongst which passion may be the most important part. Engaging in the art field is not quite similar to other professions. Art education in a society that emphasizes utilitarianism and efficiency is something tiring and not pleasing. Education itself is a long-term investment, and together with the uncertainties in art, it is meant to be given a cold shoulder in a society paying huge attention to the return on investment. Nevertheless, we are obliged to share art knowledge with others, especially when they understand the significance of art and are able to connect it with their other life experiences. All the art educators I am acquainted with are willing to devote unlimitedly for the pursuit and inheritance of art. Great artists are also perfectionists; they always strive to do better for their own pursuit.

The School has gone through various changes in these 20 years, a majority of which was in correspondence with the development of the Hong Kong tertiary art education sector and the competition. Since I have been on board, all the design-related courses have completely faded out of the School’s programme list, and the main focus is now on the four traditional art mediums, namely painting, sculpture, ceramics and photography. Although it seems out of place to learn by mediums in today’s concept-driven and idea-oriented art scene, I see something new when interacting with the teachers and students. I can see that students are building up personal connections with a certain medium; when they continue to practice and refine their skills to a certain level, the materials and skills are able to shape their temperament, sensitivity and intuition. At the same time, the material handling techniques preserved from history can help connect the perceptions of our ancestors with us – this is a concrete and clear approach to art. While mainstream art education is dominated by knowledge and creativity, the traditional approach of HKAS appears to be a solid base. The School adopts the traditional mediums as the foundation and gradual approach to art, yet we also pay a great deal of attention to the width of each medium and its linkage with contemporary art, i.e., the practice of traditions in the contemporary context, which includes the broadening of the definition of traditional mediums with other knowledge and methods. This can be proved by the works of our graduates – a student with painting major could choose to present the learning outcomes in the format of art installation; while the installation itself brings out the unique attitude of a painter. Such practice has been inspiring me a lot.

Education is about the growth of people. When we run a private school, we have to take the operation mechanism of a society into consideration. It is not either the reality or the ideal; they can be the two sides of a single coin. I even think that the market mechanism can be a reminder, reminding us to keep reviewing the timeliness and legitimacy of what we do and insist on. I believe that all my colleagues, both former and current, understood the challenge and the opportunity that came with it, and have been working hard to improve the School no matter what. This is why the School has been standing for 20 years, and it is still here.

The teachers from HKAS are all active artists whose persistence and pursuit of art are shown in their ways of teaching. It is truly incredible to be able to teach about the things we love. At the School, I see great passion, devotion and energy. Every artist is probably also a perfectionist who tirelessly pursues his or her dreams; and it is the job of artist teachers to nurture many others who would also do the same. I am honoured to be one of them.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the School, there are a series of celebratory events. The art exhibition to be held towards the end of the year is definitely a highlight. Four subject coordinators are the curators of the four major streams; alumni and former teachers invited as participating artists are the backbone of the exhibition. It is worth mentioning that the four subject coordinators from the time when the School was founded are also invited, they are Dr. HO Siu Kee, Dr. Francis YU , Mr. TSE Ming Chong and Ms. Fiona WONG. It is a once in a lifetime experience to see former and current teachers, together with alumni, participating in one exhibition.

I would like to express my gratitude to all the participating artists for allowing us to sell their works through the exhibition, the fund being raised will be donated to the School for its development, non-recurring expenditures and the scholarships to students.

Huge appreciation also goes to the great work of the School’s administration teams. Without their support, this publication and the event would not be possible. Last but not least, I would also like to thank the support of the senior management team of the Hong Kong Arts Centre and the assistance of the venue support team, they help us to bring our plans into life despite limitation on resources.

還記得在千禧年左右,聞說香港藝術中心建立了新的藝術學院,直覺上已知道香港專上藝術教育會有一番新氣象。不出幾年,看了第一屆的畢業展,同業對藝術學院學生出色而專業的表現,莫不感到驚訝。當時還在中文大學藝術系任職的我,對於香港能出現一所自資藝術學校感到不可思議,但也樂見其成,因為香港自五十年代新亞書院創辦藝術系之後,要到差不多半個世紀,才見到另一所以創作為主的藝術學院終於建立,比起鄰近地區的發展,確實有點遲緩。

香港藝術學院成立的時段也可說是踫上香港藝壇發展的大躍進:創意產業丶藝術博覧丶浸會大學視覺藝術院成立丶外國畫廊進駐丶本地文化藝術NGO開始蓬勃等等都在往後幾年內發生……香港作為亞洲藝術品展示交易重鎮至今方興未艾……同時,香港藝術學院所面對的挑戰也愈益嚴峻……如果不能在這氛圍中有自內的活力和信念,將很難在競爭相當大的環境用自資的方式生存。

我加入學院的時間只有兩年多,每次看到同學展覽的時候,仍有一種不可思議的感覺,在我所知道的資源下,學生如何可以做出這種水平的作品?學校作為一個藝術新晉的孵化器,它應該有些什麽條件可以推動同學的潛力?讓同學在往後的日子持續發展?我所看到的學院的特色是:

一)學生的來源:傳統中學入世未深但對藝術充滿熱誠的中學生,與已在社會工作一段時間,擁有其他知識及才能的成人,所佔學生比例約各佔一半。這種學生來源的組合在香港並不多見,二十歲不到的青澀少年有機會在這裡和三、四十歲,已擁有大學學位的追夢人在這裡相遇一一成熟社會經驗和新生代的求知熱情可以在這裡碰撞丶互相砥礪丶相濡以沫。

二)學院的課程骨幹和澳洲皇家墨爾本理工大學(RMIT)互相扣連。RMIT這所大學的藝術及設計課程在世界排名相當高,課程的內容和編排方式都能緊貼世界藝術教育前沿的想法和操作,在內容上很能貼近與不同知識的交換,在編制上容許不同藝術專業的深化和互滲。據我所知,這種特色在香港並不多見。

三)香港藝術中心的節目多元化的基因,自負盈虧的生存方式,也促使藝術學院要和社會的變化同步,並迅速作出回應…再者,從學院的角度,香港應該沒有一所大學可以有像香港藝術中心如此強大的丶多元化的節目運作團隊作後盾,可以與學院互相灌溉丶互相支持。學院和中心互相作用下所能發揮的協同效應當可超越我們對一般大專院校的期望。

香港藝術學院的傳統在二十年來的發展經歷了很多不同階段,其變化都是因應社會需要,生存條件而作出反應,這種要延續下去的緊張感對學院同事上上下下都產生相應壓力,所以大家必須有一種強烈的信念和適應力才能繼續下去;這種投入和能力不是可以由一兩句說話可以概括,但總的來說是熱情丶獨立丶多元丶適應和平衡,而其中熱情可能是最重要的一環。從事藝術不同於其他專業範疇,在講究功利和效率的社會中做藝術教育相當吃力而不討好,教育本身已是一種長遠投資,再加上藝術的虛無性,在講究投資及回報效率比例的社會中注定飽受冷待。但是,當大家能瞭解藝術的重要性,並能拓展它和其他生活經驗的連繫時,我們亦責無旁貸地去和他人積極分享這些並不顯眼丶難求即時的知識。以我所認識的藝術教育同工來說,都可以為藝術的追求和承傳毫不計較地付出更多。好的藝術家不可能不是完美主義者,因為永遠能為自己的追求做到最好。

我們的學院在二十年間經歷了很多課程變革和合作者,當中的變化大抵都和香港專上美術教育的板塊離合和競爭環境有關。就我上任以來,學院已經完全淡出設計的課程的範疇,轉而專注傳統媒介藝術的四個範疇,分別是繪畫丶雕塑丶陶藝和攝影。在今天觀念和意念為主導的藝術潮流下,以媒介入手的學習方法看似不合時宜,但透過不斷和同事和學生的交流,我看到一些從前忽略了的觀點,我看到當學生對某種媒介投入並產生個人聯繫,並在不斷的操作並精練到一定程度後,物質和技巧可以塑造一個人的相應氣質丶敏感度和直覺力;同時,歷史所留存下來的處理物質的技術,可把不同時空所累積下來的不同藝術家的感悟,和現在的學習者連接一這是一種具體的丶清晰的丶明白的和漸進的藝術進路。在知識和創意所主導的主流藝術教育趨勢中,藝術學院的傳統反而顯得確切堅實。在實際的教育實踐中,香港藝術學院雖然仍以傳統媒介為基礎和藝術進路,我們亦注重媒介的開放性以及和當代藝術方法的結合,即是傳統媒介在當代的實踐,這包含了用其他知識和方法打開和擴展傳統媒介的定義。這種看法可在歷屆的畢業生的作品得到明證一繪畫專業學生可以在畢業展中以裝置的形式展示他的學習成果,而所做出來的裝置作品所關注的元素又往往可能顯示了一種「畫家的態度」;這種既堅實又開放的教育實踐對我也帶來不少啟示。

教育是有關人的成長的事業,我們往往不得不以關顧社會運作的種種必需條件來營運一所私營學校,在現實和理想之間,我並不覺得是一種非此即彼的選擇,而是如何用柔軟的心把兩者揉合。我甚至覺得巿場機制可時常提醒我們不斷思考我們所作所為的適時性丶考驗我們所堅持的東西的正當性。我相信學院能在香港迄立了二十年,歷任同事都明白這種挑戰和契機,非常努力使用這自由市場的壓力來自我修補丶自我完善。

藝術學院的老師都是香港相當活躍的藝術家,他們對藝術的執着和追求都直接反映在他們的教學中,我常覺得能從事喜愛的事,並把這些美好的東西傳授給人是很美麗的事。在學院內我看到很多熱情丶投入與活力,大概每位藝術家都無可避免地是追求理想的完美主義者,而他們的職志也是培養一批又一批追求理想的人,我能參與其中,實在十分榮幸。

就慶祝香港藝術學院二十周年,我們籌劃了一連串盛事,其中年底的藝術展覧更是重點項目,我邀請了四位學科統籌擔任不同媒介項目的策展人,幫忙邀請了歷屆校友和老師參展,是展覽的主要骨幹;值得一提的是我們也邀請了創校時期的四位學科統籌,何兆基、余偉聯丶謝明莊丶黃麗貞(現任)參展,新舊老師能聚在一起,和校友同場展出,實在十分難得。

另一我要鄭重致謝的事,我們也徵得參展者的同意,讓我們可以把作品在展覽期間義賣,其中部份收益會捐給學院,作為支持學院發展丶非經常性支出和獎助學生等用途。

今次幕後策劃丶出版和支援,也要感謝學校行政團隊,有了他們鉅細無遺在後台的支持和把關,大家都可以放心向前爭取多走幾步。最後也要向香港藝術中心領導層,和駐場展覽團隊的用心協助致謝,很多事情都主動籌謀及提出意見,得使我們的期望在有限的資源內一一實現。

AN
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CELEBRATING
THE
20TH
ANNIVERSARY
OF
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