Talking Art : Raymond Fung Wing-kei

exhibitionRenowned architect Mr. Raymond Fung left his long-term government post on the 2008 Valentine’s Day to pursue his true love – ink art. As a grass-root artist, his favourite pastime is strolling along Temple Street and listening to the people sing. In his eyes, art and culture is just as simple as that.

Q: When was your first encounter of arts and culture?

A: I was born in a grass-root family so I started submitting drawings to the Children’s Corner of the South China Morning Post every week since the age of eight with hopes to win ten dollars. Due to my poor results in the science stream, I got kicked out of the St Louis School in Form Two. My art teacher Mr. Ip Chik Hoo probably felt the same outcast in a science school so he took me as a student and taught me traditional Chinese painting. I was hoping to earn a living out of it in the future and gain my confidence back through drawing.

Q: Thats how you started your career of ink art?

A: I learned from Mr. Ip, who charged me very little, for six years. In the early 1970s, I was struck by the emerging new ideas for Chinese painting and secretly visited the painting exhibition of Mr. Lui Shoukwan and learned from Mr. He Baili without letting my teacher know. The traditional training I received has set a firm foundation of my painting skills.

Q: How did you make your way to the school of architecture in the United States?

A: I failed to enter the universities in Hong Kong so I ended up in the School of Communications in the Baptist College for two years but soon realised I was no material for this path. The Baptist College used to have a connection with the Louisiana State University so I decided to transfer my credits there and finish the degree in two years, which was also the cheapest way. I got a flight ticket with my relatives’ help and started with an empty pocket in the United States. I finally landed a part-time job which involved handling toxic chemicals so I had to get up at 4am every day for work and attended school at 9am. I worked as a dish washer at the university canteen in the afternoon and waiter in a Chinese restaurant at weekend. Luckily with my art talents, I was later transferred to the Department of Fine Arts then Architecture and got a four-year scholarship which greatly improved my school grades and living standard. I finally got my degree after five years.

exhibitionQ: How did all these years of tough life inspire you?

A: It greatly shaped my optimistic character. I don’t believe in God but I truly believe that one will be compensated for his hard work. 

Q: What happened after you returned to Hong Kong?

A: I have always been in the architectural industry after graduation but I never gave up ink painting. I further polished my skills through the diploma courses of the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University. I was also very fortunate to have the opportunity to broaden my horizons on Chinese paintings at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts.

Q: Who is your favourite painter?

A: Mr. Lui Shoukwan is my favourite and I was enlightened by Mr. Liu Guosong in the 1970s. Mr. Chui Tzehung, Mr. He Baili and Mr. Yang Shanshen were all my mentors as well.

Q: Why did you join the WKCDA board?

A: Coming from such a humble family, I have never thought I would have the honour of involvingin the decision making process of influential projects like the WKCD. I wish to contribute to the local art and culture scene as a repay to the city of my own. 

Q: Which is your most successful project in your architectural career?

A: It has to be the Wetland Park because it has won so many local and international awards. The design conveys the message of environmental protection by fully utilising the open space, immersing visitors into nature. Believe it or not, another project that I’m proud of is the West Kowloon Promenade. It was regarded as a real estate project back then and my job was to eliminate this secular perception and to reshape the site into a preview of the future cultural district. 

exhibitionQ: Can you tell us your design concept?

A: Since it is a “temporary” park, we tried to break the norm and use art installations as a form of design. We adopted a hundred triangular lanterns to form a light band stretching two kilometers and invited 70 local artists to paint on the surface of the lanterns with wind bells inside, incorporating both visual and sonic elements. Minimal artificial package and flexible open space for various happenings, I am happy to see more and more activities happening there. Some may say that the land is wasted with poor maintenance which I don’t mind at all! What you see now is just a phase leading to a bigger picture of an important cultural district. Art sometimes can just be a process, it doesn’t have to go on forever as long as it has its moment to shine.

Q: What in your view best represents Hong Kong culture?

A: I still always take a stroll on the temple street to see the fruit market, the newly-built Cantonese opera centre, and listen to people sing Cantonese opera or out-of-tune English songs. These are the ultimate embodiment of Hong Kong culture. I hope the colleagues and board members of the WKCDA would really get into the community and enjoy this grass-root culture with the people so that they wouldn’t see art as something out of their reach.