• 9:35 am on July 29, 2015

    When it’s not cultural appropriation 


    There has been a lot of talk about cultural appropriation lately (in regards to people wearing headdresses to music festivals and Halloween costumes).  I’m not talking about that.  I want to talk about when the best of two worlds merge to create something new and amazing.

    So I’ve talked before about how my grandfather was always trying to merge a Western medium (oil painting) and Eastern ideas into his paintings.  I recently read this article about a band that is doing the same thing only in the realm of music.  They talk about preserving their culture, which I think my grandfather was also trying to do.  They talk about how they have an oral tradition of passing on their stories to the next generation.  They are folk/rock group, Hanggai.  Check out their article in the National Post.  There is also a little video from their upcoming documentary which has a sample of their sound.

    I think my grandfather tried to do the same thing in his art.  As you can see in Seaview below, he painted Chinese scenes but he would use the medium of oil painting (which wasn’t really a traditional Chinese medium).  I think he was trying to capture the every day life of everyday people in Hong Kong during his time.  It’s just like Hanggai trying to pass on their stories through their music, just in a different way.

    I believe he was also influenced by Western artists like the Impressionists, as you can tell from the painting below.  His techniques were also probably influenced by them.  One technique he used quite often was layering the paint thickly with his palate knife, which is quite obvious in Seaview.  For his time period, it was revolutionary and he produced some amazing art.

    © Copyright 2014 Cantra Limited. Please contact us for permission to use any of the images.

    Seaview, 40.5 x 50.5 cm, oil on hardboard, 1957

    It’s nice to see each generation mixing it up to create something totally different from what came before but at the same time respecting their roots.  Each one of them, Ng Po Wan and Hanggai are preserving their culture while adding something to the discussion.  Now that is what cultural appropriation should be.


    Posted by: intersections
    Tags: 1957, 40.5x50.5, cultural appropriation, merging two cultures, oil on hardboard  
  • 2:49 pm on February 13, 2014


    two horses

    A Pair of Steeds, 66 x 81 cm, oil on canvas, 1975

    So another year begins in the lunar calendar and I thought it appropriate to share this painting.  It is, of course, the Year of the Horse.   This painting used to hang in our house as a poster.  It’s like an old friend, familiar and comforting.

    Contest Time

    I thought since it is the Year of the Horse, in celebration we should have a little contest and give one of these posters away.  So, please leave a comment on what you hope this next year will bring and at the end of New Year’s celebrations (Feb 15), we will randomly pick a winner.

    For those of you who don’t win and still want a poster of your own, we are selling these for $75 Canadian.  Please contact me for more information.


    Happy New Year.


    Posted by: admin
  • 10:57 am on January 2, 2014

    Cross Country Skiing 

    © Copyright 2014 Cantra Limited. Please contact us for permission to use any of the images.

    X-Country Skiing in a Sunny Winter Day, 66 x 81 cm, oil on canvas, 1992, Landscapes

    I thought this an appropriate painting to share as this is exactly how we spent our New Year’s Day.  For the first day of the year, we spent much of it lazing around inside the house but the outside beckoned and we strapped on our cross country skis for the first time in a long time and went for a family ski. I remember as kids, my parents would take us cross country skiing and we would hate it because it was so much work! At least, that’s what it felt like to a 12-year old.  But yesterday it was a lot of fun.  We didn’t go on any groomed paths. We just went behind our house, through a former corn field (just stubs of the stalks left) and through the woods.  For a while we followed a snowmobile track but for the most part, we made our own track, over broken limbs (fallen from the ice storm) and around stumps and trees.  We saw many animal tracks: squirrel, mice, chipmunk, wild turkey and we think a coyote.  It was a lovely day. I find this painting interesting because it may be called “X-Country Skiing…” but you have to look really hard to find the people actually skiing!  They are nearly hidden by the trees and could almost be a part of the trees.  The main focus of the painting is the sun.  It is definitely a “Sunny Day”.  You can imagine exactly this kind of a day: where the sun is shining so brightly that it reflects off the snow, you have to squint to see and the heat is so intense it has you sweating under your jacket and hat.  It’s the kind of day that you just can’t help being aware of the sun at all times.  This painting reflects the almost overwhelming effect the sun can have, even on a cold wintry day.  In a way, this painting is also about hope.  Even on the longest winter day with the cold and snow, the sun can be out shining and warming things up.  The sun is always there, even if obscured by clouds, just like hope is always there.  And it’s sunny days that remind us of that hope.  So here is hoping for a great 2014.  Happy New Year! J

    Posted by: admin
    Tags: 1992, , landscapes, , sunny, winter, x-country skiing  
  • 10:51 am on December 13, 2013

    Caught in a Snow Storm 

    © Copyright 2013 Cantra Limited. Please contact us for permission to use any of the images.

    Caught in a Storm, 66 x 81cm, oil on canvas, 1979

    In honour of all the snow that is happening/about to happen (hello?  Snow for the first time in about 100 years in Cairo and the heaviest snow in 50 years in Jerusalem!), I thought I would share one of my favourite paintings.

    I remember seeing this painting when we visited Hong Kong in 1996 in (I think) the Art Gallery of Hong Kong.  I remember racing around the gallery with my cousins and brother looking for it and then when I found it, just staring at it.  I remember being fascinated with how well it captures the feeling of being caught in a snowstorm, where you can barely see in front of you, you’re trying to shield your face from all the blowing snow and you keep hoping you’re heading in the right direction.  The swirling white paint perfectly evokes the mass of snow and how disorienting it is.  I love how he uses more than just white to create the snowstorm.  Yes, white is the predominant colour but if you look closely, you can also see yellows and blues within the snow.  I love how you can barely see the people, making you feel like you’re in the storm with those people.  I remember wanting those poor people to get to where they were going quickly!

    So here’s hoping no one is caught in a snowstorm like this anytime soon….


    Posted by: admin
    Tags: 1979, , , , scenes  
  • 12:30 pm on November 11, 2013


    © Copyright 2013 Cantra Limited. Please contact us for permission to use any of the images.

    Doves, 92 x 73 cm, oil on canvas, 1953

    Doves, 92 x 73 cm, oil on canvas, 1953 (186) [B37-53] © Copyright 2013 Cantra Limited

    November 11, 2013

    Remembrance Day is celebrated on the 11th month of the 11th day on the 11th hour in Canada.  Although my grandfather never painted anything in relation to Remembrance Day or any of the Wars.  I felt it was appropriate to share this painting.  I know Remembrance Day is a sombre day of remembering the men and women who have died fighting for the peace we know and for the men and women who still fight for the peace that they believe in.  But as my grandfather said, “I have never depicted only the dark side of life.  I love to express optimism and hope in my pictures”  So in remembrance of my grandfather, I wanted to post this painting of his which depicts joy and optimism and the hope for peace.

    For me, this isn’t a time to fight over whether you believe in war or not.  It is a time to honour those who have fought for what they believed in (and even those who didn’t even want to fight but still did it).  It is a time to be thankful for what we have in North America, the freedoms and privileges we have.  It is a time to remember all those who died, soldiers and civilians, young and old, and for all of those who were in Concentration Camps.  It is a time to reflect on why we continue to fight wars and how we can work towards peace.

    Posted by: admin
    Tags: 1953, 92x73, ,  
  • 2:46 pm on November 6, 2013

    Life has a way… 


    If we just keep going, we discover the endless roads available, like the detour where we discover a waterfall we never knew about.

    It seems that life has a way of showing us that we are all connected.  It might be in the little things like how a smile from a stranger can make our day or in bigger things like meeting someone from across the world and agreeing that family is most important.  There is a connection between us whether we are Chinese or Canadian or German or Brazilian.

    We may look for where our lives connect and not find it.  We might think the road stretches forever without meeting another road, but it’s there all right, all the tiny roads that come out of nowhere and surprise us.  If we just keep going, we discover the endless roads available, like the detour where we discover a waterfall we never knew about.

    I think my granddad’s art is one of those intersections.  Art has a way of transcending language and barriers.  My granddad’s art, many times, tells a story, which is seen in every culture: the story of family or tragedy or hope, the story of toiling away, of everyday normal life.  The specifics may look different but the general reality is the same.

    I hope that as you look through his paintings, you discover things about a different culture that aren’t really that different from yours.


    Posted by: admin
    Tags: art, intersections  
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