On unnamed days we would journey in groups of twos or threes to sit with Li Shaowen, Li Laoshi – teacher - to sit at his feet, really. Keen were we to be ensconced, always, in the inner-chambers of his abode, away from stingy lawns of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, where grey bricks impinged on our songs, away from those over-zealous artists come to pursue short courses, away from din and patter of student feet. For we guarded him jealously, did not wish to share him with the world. We revelled in that broad scope of knowledge suffusing the very air surrounding him, evident in cadence of speech, gesture of hands, lilt of voice, piercing eyes, tone, and bearing.
Now fully in his presence, that stick of incense kindled, delicate flavour of tea playing on our palate, sometimes wind through doors, we noticed how silvery strands floated like ancient verses about rim of glasses over which those piercing eyes recurrently dangled.
In Li Shaowen’s home conversation surged like a river of golden light whose alluvium was, no doubt, knowledge tinged with wisdom, in quest of truth, bordered on banks of reason. These really were our lectures, without walls within walls, beyond books, prescribed texts, sometimes in that realm where language must yield to spirit and understanding traverses in the clear blue, above where mere words fail to penetrate.
Especially was I delighted when, alone, we traversed in said clear blue. During those times I was sure that he who had painted the ‘Nine Songs’, scenes from Dante’s Divine Comedy, images of a vanished China, all adorned in silk and jade and poetry, had my undivided attention, as I his.
Here there was no speaking of Art in some narrow sense, but even as Life, encompassing all things of the creation. For thus is true art birthed, bolstered, nourished. There was seemingly no subject under the sun about which Li Shaowen could not engage us. Here presided a soul who constantly reminded that our lectures were based upon that catholicity of ritual prevailing in the Spring and Autumn period when great teachers engaged their disciples.
Artists all were we, yet hardly ever a word about technique. Of what use is empty technique? There were no words about examinations. Does not every man preside over his own heart in moments of quietude? Critiques hardly ever were staged. Shall not every painting or sculpture or line traced on some silent surface, scream the soul of the inscriber?
Post lectures with Li Laoshi, no doubt lingered about what improvement needed to be made in depth of self, invariably to be reflected on immediacy of surface, of character. And thus, for years, we carved our dreams from out that living fabric of what lingers an inch above this corporeal frame. For years he watched us change, grow, inch closer to that individual we were meant to enter into full possession of. Sometimes we did not believe he had not lived for millennia, for his spirit is ageless, as the mountains are ageless, and in his heart resides a vast tide of illimitable love. Never have I been prouder to call one "Teacher".
Courtney A. Hogarth's Blog
- Beijing, China
- January 16
- Courtney A. Hogarth holds a Ph.D. in Classical Chinese Painting from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Hogarth is a graduate of Edna Manley College – School of Visual Arts, in Kingston, Jamaica.
He came to China out of a profound interest in Chinese Philosophy and Culture, to pursue studies in Classical Chinese Painting, Chinese Philosophy and Culture. He endeavours to exercise respect for the wisdom and traditions of the people with whom he co-inhabits the earth. It is out of the desire to interpret and share what he feels as an individual that Hogarth creates, utilizing visual imagery and the written word.
Hogarth’s paintings have been exhibited at the China National Art Museum, National Gallery of Jamaica, Sunshine Museum, the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Grosvenor Galleries, Revolution Galleries and the Jamaica Tourist Board. In 2004 he curated his first solo exhibition in Jamaica. Titled ‘Spirit of The brush – Courtney Hogarth Looks at China’ it presented the Jamaican audience with ink paintings inspired by life in China. In 2006 Hogarth, along with four Chinese artists, created an exhibition titled ‘Cocoon’ at the newly established Jamaican Embassy in Beijing. In celebration of 35 years of diplomatic relations between Jamaica and the People’s Republic of China, Hogarth curated and participated in an exhibition titled ‘Journeys’ in November 2007.
In his native Jamaica, he has been the subject of several newspaper and magazine articles, radio and television programmes. Hogarth has a unique interest in the literary world, writes poetry and prose dealing with the human condition, celebrating life, and questioning our journey as a nomadic race in the quest to find love and belonging. In 1994 he entered an essay competition sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). His entry titled: “Youth and the Struggle for Social and Economic Development in Latin America and the Caribbean” was awarded first place, qualifying him Jamaica’s representative to an international youth forum held in Jerusalem, Israel, in 1995. Additionally, he has been the recipient of several awards and scholarships, among them: the C.L. Stuart Award for Academic Excellence, the Mutual Life Foundation Scholarship, the Chinese Overseas Scholarship and the Distinguished Foreign Scholar’s Scholarship from the Government of China.
In February 2009, the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, invited Hogarth to deliver the inaugural lecture of the newly established Confucius Institute. Here he spoke on: “Language, Learning and the Future”.
In China, Hogarth’s work has been reviewed on China Central Television (CCTV 9), China Education Television (CETV), included in exhibitions of the Central Academy, and published in ‘Configuration Multiply’ by Professor Hu Ming Zhe, of the Central Academy, in which she described his drawings as “…a seeming tropical breeze…” Additionally, his paintings are to be found in private collections in several countries and have also been collected by the Chinese Embassy in Jamaica, the Jamaican Embassy in China, and the Ministry of Education, Jamaica. Over the course of several summers Hogarth designed and taught drawing courses at the Edna Manley College – School of Visual Arts. In 2009 Hogarth was invited to deliver a series of lectures on “Jamaican Art” at the Beijing Institute of Education.
One of his guiding philosophies is that the breadth of the world equals the individual’s mental space. Hogarth believes that artists ought to contribute to the creation of an environment allowing for visual interpretation to be accorded to dreams and ideas. This will, in turn, dictate how as creative individuals we communicate our visions to humanity – adding strength and impetus to that universal impulse seeking to forge a more harmonious, habitable environment.
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