In the present and for the future, visual arts are and will always be relevant to human society. Since 1957, while it was still part of New Asia College and thus before the foundation of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Fine Arts Department has educated and helped develop the careers of many local artists. As a matter of fact, it is safe to say that a large portion of the professional artists and arts professionals of the SAR have received at least part of their art education at the Fine Arts Department.
These sixty years of experience in developing higher education in the arts have allowed the Fine Arts Department to retain many of the most traditional forms of art making as well as adapting to the very wide range of practices now available in the world of art. The following list of art practices, by no means complete as other new courses are often introduced, shows how varied they can be: Chinese calligraphy and painting, oil and acrylic painting, drawing, sculpture, print making, video art and photography, etc. But these skills would not be enough without the reflection that needs to be done in using them and the Fine Arts Department strongly emphasizes how thinking is always made more relevant with the necessary knowledge. As a result, the reflection undertaken during the studio art courses are always reinforced with the knowledge mastered in the art history and theory courses. These courses, in fact, also function as a full-fledge art history curriculum and many graduates of the Fine Arts Department continue their careers as art critics, curators or art historians.
In addition to these studio art and art history courses, a number of activities outside the classroom also enrich the students’ experience. From collection viewing at the Art Museum of The Chinese University of Hong Kong to exchange programmes, from internships to annual study trips outside Hong Kong and on-campus exhibitions, all new learning opportunities are being explored by all the teaching and supporting staff of the department as well as by the student organizers of the Fine Arts Club. As for its undergraduate programmes, the Fine Arts Department also has a graduate division with a dual identity. Its M.Phil. and Ph.D. programmes focus on Chinese art history, especially antique objects, painting and calligraphy, as well as modern and contemporary Chinese art. Its Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programme, however, is dedicated to practicing artists and is designed to help them reinforce and articulate on a professional level their own practice through research. Several of the graduates from this programme have moved on to become internationally recognized artists. Since this research programme can only offer a limited number of places, the Department introduced a Master of Art in Fine Arts (MAFA) in the academic year 2009-10. A taught programme, the MAFA also aims to raise the practices of its students to a professional level and many of its alumni have played active parts in the local and regional art scene.
This long description of the curriculums of the Fine Arts Department is also a good occasion to emphasize the fact that undergraduate students are encouraged to make their own choices when devising their study plan, even though they can always rely on their teachers to help them make these choices. In the end, it is the mission of the Fine Arts Department to strive for full-person education; preparing our students for all that they will face in life after graduation. The very wide range of practices available at the Fine Arts Department also explains in part why its graduates have moved on to play very varied roles in the society of Hong Kong and in other parts of the world. Some are full time artists enjoying today much more opportunities than in the past since Hong Kong has now been endowed with an increasingly mature art market. Others are art professionals, working in galleries, museums and arts related businesses like auction houses and art archives. Others still work in art education, teaching students at all levels in many different institutions. And it is also possible today for Fine Arts Department graduates to work in local and international NGO thanks to the growing trend of socially -engaged art practices.
Through the teaching of specific skills, ranging from the most hands-on to the most theoretical, the curriculums of the Fine Arts Department were designed to help students develop very personal forms of expression. It is in these personal expressions that original forms of creativity appear that can satisfy both the students’ needs and societal needs. In a world where advances in technology are threatening many jobs, this type of creativity will always be in demand.
Professor Frank VIGNERON
Chair, Department of Fine Arts