Talking Art : Andrew Lam Siu-lo

Many know West Kowloon Cultural District Authority board member Mr. Andrew Lam is a distinguished town planner but perhaps few know he is a big fan of arts and culture. He loves Chinese literature, ink art, traditional teapots and crude stones. His music taste - from Mozart to Jan Lamb in his iPad - surprised even our Performing Arts Executive Director Louis Yu. In his young days, he also earned a weeks travel expenses by performing on German streets.  

exhibitionQ: What was your first encounter of arts and culture?

A: I was a street kid and I loved to watch Cantonese opera around town during festive seasons. When I was a child, I often went to the restaurant where my dad worked to watch traditional Chinese singing performances. I remember when I was in primary three or four, I was so frightened that I lost my voice during a school choir competition and I also got stage fright in a solo verse speaking competition. How embarrassing!

Q: What happened afterwards?

A: I started to appreciate a bit more about architecture and art when I studied Town Planning in Britain. Later when I studied in the United States, fine arts was a compulsory subject and I chose graphic design and wood printing which I have always loved till now. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy the wood prints that I fancy if they are affordable. I often visited the museums abroad as a student but left no money to buy Broadway tickets. That is why I’m not a musical fan.

Q: What is your favourite form of art?

A: I have a passion for Chinese literature and history since secondary school. Ray Huang, who wrote thorough and easy to understand history, is one of my favourite authors. Jin Yong is good at incorporating history into his novels with political metaphors which is amazing. I read and listen to different kinds of music depending on my mood. I pick English science fictions when I feel like daydreaming. Li Ao is my choice when feeling sarcastic and I’ll go for Jimmy (Taiwanese illustrator) for some pictures. I’m now reading “Dream of the Red Chamber” for the fourth time, just to prove my teacher’s saying that this novel gives you different feelings when you read at different age and it really does!

Q: What about music?

A: Music to me is more for mind cultivation than passion. Apart from hard rock, I basically listen to all kinds of music, particularly children’s choir and pop classics. As for classical music, I prefer something light such as Mozart. My favourite pop singers include Cass Pang, Beyond and Jonathan Lee from Taiwan. They do not only have an amazing voice, their performances are filled with emotions.  Just take a look at my iPad then you’ll see how diversified my music taste is. Even Louis Yu is amazed!

exhibitionQ: Do you play any musical instruments?

A: Not really but the only time I played an instrument I actually earned some money! I had very little money with me when I traveled around Europe in my University days so I had to work for money along my travel. I once saw a friend play “General’s Command” with a guitar in Britain. When I was in Germany, I borrowed a street artist’s guitar and tried to play that song, it was probably out of tune but of course they didn’t know. Maybe they rarely saw Chinese street artists, I actually earned the whole week’s expenses in just two hours which was much better than stepping grapes in vineyards! But I've never played again since then.

Q: Do you enjoy performing arts too?

A: I watch four to five dramas every year with “A Sentimental Journey”, which is the story of the legendary Cantonese opera trio, as my recent favourite. I love listening to Cantonese opera but I rarely go to the shows because I tend to fall in love with the poetic lyrics rather than the melodies. That’s why I only listen to the operatic excerpts that I like.

Q: Do you excel your artistic interests at work?

A: I’ve got lots of images in my brain but I just couldn’t express them by drawing. My sketches are OK but never as good as my writing. I don’t have a steady hand to produce my favourite ink paintings. I was actually better in graphic design using other medium back in school. 

exhibitionQ: Can you tell us about your collection?

A: I love art pieces that are crude but expressive at the same time. My collections include tea pots from China, Taiwan and Japan, as well as unpolished stones from all over the world. There are also some oil paintings, pottery and prints by Wu Guanzhong. I particularly love splash-ink paintings. I bought two from a gallery which I had been visiting for twenty years since secondary school but could not afford anything there. When I started working, I eventually bought two paintings from the gallery just before it closed down. My wife also appreciates paintings and sculptures – because of me.

Q: Do you look forward to the West Kowloon Cultural District?

A: Of course! This project has really helped promote art and culture in recent years. With more quality arts and cultural exhibitions, Hong Kong people would gradually realise that this is not something out of their reach.